Wednesday, November 29, 2017 1:00 am
Miller: Duke as good as anybody
No. 1 team visiting as IU gets game in sync
Pete DiPrimio | For The Journal Gazette
Indiana vs. Duke
When: 9:30 p.m. today
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington
Radio: 1250 AM
BLOOMINGTON – Brace yourself, here comes top-ranked Duke. Are the Indiana Hoosiers ready?
Duke (8-0) comes to Assembly Hall tonight, as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, loaded with youthful talent. IU (4-2) counters with a three-game winning streak and improving offense and defense.
The Blue Devils just spent four days in Oregon, winning their bracket title in the PK-80 Phil Knight Invitational, an event that featured some of the nation's top teams. The title didn't come easy; Duke rallied from 17 points down to beat No. 7 Florida in Sunday's championship game, two days after coming back from a 16-point second-half deficit against Texas.
This is the first true road game of the season for the Blue Devils, who also have beaten Big Ten-favorite Michigan State in Chicago. IU has won its last six home games against top-four opponents.
While senior guard Grayson Allen gets plenty of attention, Duke thrives with freshmen power – eight are on the roster, compared with just one senior – led by forwards Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr., and guard Trevon Duval. The 6-foot-11 Bagley has been so good, averaging 22.2 points and 11.2 rebounds, that coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has won 1,079 games over a Hall of Fame career, has said he already is of U.S. national team caliber.
Bagley is the ACC Freshman of the Week for his PK-80 performance; he's the first Duke freshman to have six double-doubles in his first eight games. Carter averages 12.7 points and 9.1 rebounds. Duval is at 13.1 points and 6.5 assists. Allen averages 16.5 points and 4.6 assists.
“They're as talented any team in college basketball,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “They're as big and as skilled a team as you're going to see. They have potentially two first-team All-Americans on their team (Bagley and Allen). We know what we're getting.”
IU is getting in sync with the way Miller wants to play. In the last three games, the Hoosiers are holding opponents to 39.6 percent shooting. They've scored 87 points in each of their last two games.
“Everybody is getting comfortable with the offensive style, the defensive schemes,” guard Josh Newkirk said. “We've just been practicing a lot. I think everybody is feeling more comfortable understanding that we're all helping each other. I think it's coming along.”
IU's improved offensive efficiency centers on turnovers. It has averaged just 9.3 turnovers in the last three games compared with 17.0 assists.
“We pride ourselves on taking care of the ball,” Newkirk said. “It makes our offense a lot better and it stops us from having to play a lot of defense and getting back on defense and defensive transition.”
No Hoosier takes better care of the ball than freshman guard Al Durham. He has three straight games without a turnover. He's second on the team with 18 assists against just two turnovers while playing 27.8 minutes a game. His 9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is the best of any freshman in the country.
“You're not going to find a guy early in his career that's this steady,” Miller said. “He's playing both (guard) spots. He doesn't need to have the ball on his hands a ton to be effective.
“He takes care of the ball. He makes the right read. He's an efficient scorer. He's not even shooting the ball as well as he can.
“I think if he can get his legs under him, I think being able to stretch the floor for three is going to help him. He's off to a really good start. He's very coachable. He has a great attitude.”
Added Newkirk: “He takes pride in taking of the ball and making the right decision. We're going to need him to keep doing that.”