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Duke bounced back from its first loss of the season with a dominant 90-69 win over Indiana in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge on Tuesday.
Zion Williamson scored 25 points, while RJ Barrett came through with 22 points and nine rebounds in the Blue Devils’ 142nd straight home win against non-conference opponents. After losing 89-87 to Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational final Wednesday, Duke improved to 6-1.
Romeo Langford finished with 13 points on just 3-of-15 shooting in Indiana’s second road loss of the season.
Increased Tempo Will Help Duke Get Most out of Zion Williamson, Explosive Offense
Duke is at its best when attacking the basket, and the best opportunities come on the fast break. The Devils didn’t find those looks often against Auburn or Gonzaga, but they were available against Indiana (5-2) thanks to the increased tempo.
The team ranks 67th in the country in adjusted tempo, per KenPom.com, but the strategy to pick up the pace could be seen right from the start:
Sam Vecenie @Sam_Vecenie
Think it’s super smart by Duke to utilize a light press to speed the game up.
Perhaps more importantly, Duke forced 20 turnovers, and they often turned into easy looks on the other end.
Williamson’s biggest dunk came after a steal near the half-court line:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Zion fast break.
You know how this ends
He finished with two of Duke’s 11 steals.
The Blue Devils also pushed the pace when they didn’t force turnovers. Whether after a Hoosiers make or miss, they got the ball up the floor and looked for easy baskets.
A pair of big dunks by Williamson came only three and four seconds into the shot clock:
Williamson, Barrett and others are more than capable of scoring in the half court, but no one is going to stop this team when it is on the run. The players have too much athleticism to go with the body control to finish around the basket.
The only downside of the fast tempo was that Duke’s lack of depth was exposed, with seven players playing the majority of minutes. However, the stars will get plenty of rest this season when the Blue Devils run opponents out of the gym.
RJ Barrett Must Avoid Trying to Do It All Himself
There is no denying Barrett is extremely talented. He can create looks for himself as well as anyone in college basketball and is one of the best finishers in the country.
The challenge for him is to realize there are other talents on the roster and that he doesn’t need to do everything on his own.
Barrett averaged 20.3 points per game during the Maui Invitational but shot just 21-of-59 (35.6 percent) from the field. His inefficiency was especially a problem down the stretch against Gonzaga, when he took nearly every shot but couldn’t make anything.
He improved that mindset against Indiana, as he deferred to Williamson at times while letting Tre Jones run the offense. That allowed him to finish with 22 points on a more efficient 9-of-18 shooting.
However, he still tried to do too much now and then, which led to two offensive fouls and his fouling out with more than eight minutes remaining. That didn’t hurt Duke on Tuesday, but it could in the future.
Barrett also finished with five turnovers and only one assist after he averaged 2.5 turnovers and 4.0 assists per game in his first six contests.
Like many other elite players, Barrett has surely always been the best player on his team and had to do everything. That isn’t the case this year, though.
Going forward, the freshman has to know Williamson, Jones, Cam Reddish and others are capable of picking up the slack if he doesn’t have an open look at the basket.
Duke will face an easier opponent after a tough stretch, hosting Stetson on Saturday. Indiana will begin its conference slate with a home game against Northwestern.
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