Jan 22, 2014, 10:35 PM EDT
After dropping a 72-59 decision at Clemson 11 days ago, No. 18 Duke was 1-2 in ACC play and looked like a team in search of some answers. Jabari Parker wasn’t playing at the same level he displayed during much of non-conference play, and as a team the Blue Devils still had to get better on the defensive end of the floor.
Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils have made some strides since that defeat, and while a 67-46 win against a Miami team with a serious lack of offensive firepower isn’t enough to cancel the remainder of the season and say “just give Duke the trophy” their work on the boards should be seen as a positive. Duke rebounded 44.1% of its missed shots, which is quite the achievement for a group that entered Wednesday’s contest ranked 14th in the ACC in offensive rebounding percentage.
Those extra opportunities resulted in 22 second-chance points, and that combined with their 26 points in the paint helped Duke account for their lack of a fast break. And Duke not being able to run was more about Miami’s game plan, with the Hurricanes doing as they did against No. 2 Syracuse earlier this month and doing whatever it took to keep the Blue Devils out of the open floor. It worked, as Duke scored just four fast break points, but the Hurricanes’ lack of capable scoring options (35.4% FG) meant that Jim Larrañaga’s team was unable to take advantage of this.
Of those 15 offensive rebounds six were grabbed by Jabari Parker, who finished with 17 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. Much has been made of Parker’s scoring, or lack thereof, prior to the blowout win over N.C. State, but given his skill level that should be just one aspect of his game. In the five games prior to Wednesday Parker averaged 5.4 rebounds per game, and with Duke’s lack of size in the paint he’ll need to do more against the better teams on the Blue Devils’ remaining schedule.
Speaking of Duke’s size, the play of sophomore Amile Jefferson is something to keep an eye on moving forward. In ACC play Jefferson, who finished the game with eight points and seven rebounds, is averaging 7.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. While the scoring, due to the presence of players such as Parker, Rodney Hood (12 points, six rebounds) and Quinn Cook (eight points, four assists), is a bonus the rebounding isn’t. If Duke is to be a team that makes a run at Syracuse atop the ACC and enjoy success in March they’re going to need Jefferson. He’s done his job defensively and on the boards thus far, and if he can continue to do so the Blue Devils will be a better team as a result.
From a resume standpoint is there a great amount of value in Duke’s win over Miami? Likely not but that doesn’t mean progress can’t be made. And for a team that wasn’t dominant on the glass by any stretch of the imagination entering Wednesday, Duke’s showing in the rebounding department is a positive step.
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