In a much more vintage Duke showing, they won a game against Michigan comfortably in front of an amazing Cameron crowd. Duke appeared to be in control from the tipoff, playing much improved defense and actually winning the rebounding battle against a taller team. They were able to lock up Michigan’s top offensive threat Nik Stauskus and contained Mitch McGary nicely. Caris LeVert gave Duke a scare, scoring 24 points, but Duke still won a very solid game over a talented Michigan team.
Since Duke’s atrocious defensive outing against Vermont, their defense has looked much improved, including against Michigan. Duke played amazing defense against Nik Stauskus, who has scored 20 or more points in his last five games, holding him to just four points. A big reason for this was the increased minutes to defenders Tyler Thornton and especially Matt Jones. Matt Jones looked phenomenal on the defensive end all night and looks like Duke’s best defender. Duke may get little offensive production from their bigs but they have been a huge part in Duke’s defense improvements. Duke’s defense looks so much better with a big on the court, as opposed to playing Parker at center.
A huge reason for this win was the play of Quinn Cook. This team plays as their point guard does and tonight that was a positive thing. Cook got off to a slow start, but was able to finish with 24 points and 9 assists while turning the ball over just twice. This Quinn Cook gives Duke the chance for a National Championship. He was a huge part of Duke’s fast start last year, as he played extremely well out of the gate. When his game started to take a dip, so did Duke’s. Duke needs Cook playing at his best at big times this year to succeed. With a big game tonight, it was huge to see Cook step up and play a huge role in Duke’s win.
Another confidence inspiring effort came from Marshall Plumlee. He played just six minutes but he looked much improved from previous appearances. He was able to convert at the rim, pulled down three rebounds, had a killer block, and saved a possession chasing down a loose ball. He is not yet ready for big minutes, but he looked like a player who Duke could use effectively in spurts. He may never be the player that Duke fans hope he will be, but he will be a great piece nonetheless.
The only disappointment from the Michigan game was the play, or lack of, for Rasheed Sulaimon. He was a huge factor for last year’s team, but has yet to be a factor this year. It has either been a bad slump for Sulaimon or he may just be a bad fit for this year’s Duke team. This will be the topic for another article, but Duke will need this talent player to make an impact this year.
After a disappointing start, I believe this was the start of good run for Duke. I believe they will be able to win out for the rest of the nonconference schedule, including a big game against UCLA at MSG. Duke will be off until December 16th and should be able to continue improving over the next almost two weeks. I would expect a similar effort from Duke against Gardner-Webb, but hopefully Sulaimon will join in on the fun.