Overflowing with first-game enthusiasm, Matt Jones used two hands on defense, which is the new no-no in college basketball this year, and the freshman was called for a foul right in front of the Duke bench.
Mike Krzyzewski leapt from his seat, right into Jones’ face. Quinn Cook came in at the next whistle for Jones, and Krzyzewski met Jones with a hug before he got to the bench. It’s possible Krzyzewski just had too little to complain about at that point and the freshman bore the brunt of it.
“He hugged me and told me I was playing well, so that made me feel better about it,” Jones said. “At the same time, I knew that I made a mistake and ultimately I wanted to make it up. … My first experience of Coach K, really. It was bound to happen.”
Jones’ two-hand foul was one of only a few miscues Friday, and about as minor as they come, unnoticed on any other night. Duke isn’t a perfect team, that much was clear in the 111-77 win over Davidson, but the Blue Devils are everything they thought they were. That much was also clear, and that’s awfully good.
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Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker are as good as advertised, if not better, combining to score 29 of their 44 points in a 59-point first half. Cook had no trouble adjusting to Duke’s new style, picking up eight assists. The Blue Devils were outrebounded, which is clearly Duke’s biggest weakness going forward. And the Blue Devils will be a nightmare to defend: so many options, all so dangerous.
All as expected, which is somewhat unexpected. Rarely do things shake out so according to plan right from the start.
“At this point in the season, I think this is better than what we thought,” Hood said. “We were going to get to this point as far as running and gunning and getting into the lane. We just have to keep building on it. Some games we might not be this hot from the outside.”
If there was a surprise, it was how effective sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon was after getting the tough-love treatment from Krzyzewski. Dropped from the starting lineup for Tyler Thornton, Sulaimon entered the game early in the first half and picked up where he left off last season. He scored 20 points, played defense and rebounded, and at one point, Duke even ran its offense through him.
“He’s had a good week,” Krzyzewski said. “I think he’s finally in good shape. He has not had a good fall. … We should expect him to play at the level that he played tonight. That was a big pick-me-up for us.”
As for Parker and Hood, those two completely justified Krzyzewski’s faith in them. In their first games in a Duke uniform, they dominated. Hood is a ruthlessly efficient scorer who utilized a variety of routes to the rim. Parker showed off the outside touch that makes him so unique at his size and added a monster dunk.
“First game in college, are you kidding me?” Krzyzewski said. “That was a terrific performance.”
Still, it’s easy to see how Duke can be beaten. Davidson didn’t have the size to take advantage of Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston inside, but other teams will as soon as Tuesday against Kansas, who Krzyzewski acknowledged is “huge.”
Again, that’s hardly a surprise. It’s all the way it was drawn up. The Blue Devils are who we thought they were, which makes them every bit the ACC favorite and a national-title contender. Before Friday, that was all taken on faith. Now it’s plain to see.