A season ago the Wildcats came into Cameron Indoor and played the Blue Devils to a 29-29 tie through the first half. Duke would start the second half with a 16-2 run that would decide the game. The Blue Devils were lead by Quinn Cook's 15 points in 34 minutes. Rasheed Sulaimon added eight points and seven rebounds, while the departed senior class of Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Seth Curry combined for 34 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists. As a team Duke shot 91 percent from the free throw line (20-of-22), but managed to outscore the Wildcats by only a 24-22 margin in the paint. The game was a decidedly half court affair, accounting for just two fast break points in 40 minutes.
Projected Davidson Lineup:
F - De'Mon Brooks (6-7, 230, Sr.)
F - Chris Czerapowicz (6-7, 210, Sr.)
G - Tom Droney (6-6, 200, Sr.)
G - Tyler Kalinoski (6-4, 180, Jr.)
G - Brian Sullivan (5-11, 175, So.)
Season to Date:
The Wildcats played their lone exhibition game on November 3rd, beating Lenoir-Rhyne by 51 points. Davidson connected on 14 3-pointers on the night and shot 47 percent from the field while assisting on 22 of 33 made field goals. Highlights:
Davidson will be without Southern Conference Player of the Year Jake Cohen who played during the summer with the Phoenix Suns before signing with Maccabi Tel Aviv in July. A season ago Cohen was arguably the most efficient (if not the best) big man on the floor, scoring 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds in just 19 minutes against Duke.
The Wildcats also lost guards Nik Cochran and J.P. Kuhlman who were largely ineffective a season ago, combining for just four points, one rebound, and six assists against five turnovers.
Who To Watch:
Senior forward De'Mon Brooks is the Southern Conference Preseason Player of the Year. At 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds, Brooks is a powerful presence in the paint who can score in bunches, and will likely be Davidson's first option each time down the floor. Brooks averaged 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per night in just 26.8 minutes per game a season ago while deferring often to Cohen. At times Brooks has struggled against taller players, and that was the case a season ago when Kelly and Plumlee took turns guarding, and limiting him to just 4-of-13 from the field and eight points. Brooks did, however, make his presence known on the boards by grabbing a game high 12 boards in 30 minutes. In the team's lone exhibition game Brooks scored 21 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and shot 7-of-9 from the field in 20 minutes of action.
While the Blue Devils will enjoy the advantage in pure athleticism on the wing, if the preseason is any indication, Duke will be the second best shooting team on the court Friday night. Through two preseason games Duke struggled from the perimeter, shooting just 13-of-52 from long range (.250) and 61-of-133 from the field as a team (.459). Meanwhile, the Wildcats return a pair of upperclassmen guards who have developed a reputation as reliable gunners. Senior Tom Droney shot 41-of-66 from inside the arc a season ago (.621) and 38-of-45 from the charity stripe. Droney appeared in all 34 games as a reserve. Meanwhile, junior Tyler Kalinoski started four times (and will move into the full-time starting role this season) and averaged 7.6 points in 22.6 minutes per game. In the exhibition opener, Kalinoski knocked down four of six from the perimeter and finished with 17 points in 24 minutes.
Starting small forward Chris Czerapowicz will remind some Duke fans of Blue Devils past. At 6-foot-7 and 205 pounds, the Sweden native has the height to shoot over smaller guards, and the international toughness to battle on the boards as well. As a junior he averaged 9.1 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 39 percent from the perimeter (60-of-154). Against Lenoir-Rhyne he played 25 minutes, scored 15 points, and grabbed 10 boards.
New Players of Note:
Coach Bob McKillop's prize recruit from the class of 2013 is 5-11, 190 pound point guard Jack Gibbs out of Westerville, Ohio. A former three star recruit, Gibbs developed a reputation on the AAU circuit as a versatile guard who could get hot from the perimeter, but also beat most guards off the bounce while playing for All-Ohio Varsity. As a high school senior Gibbs was named as the Gatorade State Player of the Year after averaging 17 points, five assists, and four steals for Westerville-North High. In the team's first game, Gibbs recorded 24 minutes off the bench and produced eight points, five rebounds, and four assists.
Joining Gibbs in the class is a fellow three-star center, Andrew McAuliffe. At 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds, McAuliffe is a product of Glenbrook North High (the same as Duke special assistant Jon Scheyer) that projects as one of McKillop's top reserves after picking the Wildcats over heavy interest from Illinois. He logged eight points and four rebounds in 14 minutes against Lenoir-Rhyne.
After 80 minutes of exhibition basketball in the last two weeks these Blue Devils have produced more questions than answers. After blowing past a clearly overmatched Bowie State team, Duke struggled to compensate for a very disciplined and game approach by Drury last week. As the team prepares for the season opener there are real concerns regarding the team's ability to defend, the rotation, how Duke will be able to protect the basket, and a general inability to convert at the free throw line or from the perimeter. Add in the setback in conditioning suffered by sophomore scoring guard Rasheed Sulaimon, and the Blue Devils have just one fully healthy returning starter from last season's team. Sure, there's talent, but there's a lot of meshing that needs to be done according to Mike Krzyzewski:
"Drury played as one and we are trying to learn to play that way," said the Duke coach. "You know when you're predicted to do something, sometimes those predictions are based on what people think our potential is, and sometimes where you're predicted on what you have coming back that's already been proven. All of our stuff is on potential, you know, we are a really young basketball team that needs to get better, and we will get better."
Duke 77 ... Davidson 63