Duke basketball trending well as March Madness approaches

Duke’s starting five, Tyrese Proctor (5), Kyle Filipowski (30), Jeremy Roach (3), Dereck Lively II (1) and Mark Mitchell (25) huddle together before the start of the Blue Devil’s game against Louisville at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 20, 2023.

Duke’s starting five, Tyrese Proctor (5), Kyle Filipowski (30), Jeremy Roach (3), Dereck Lively II (1) and Mark Mitchell (25) huddle together before the start of the Blue Devil’s game against Louisville at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 20, 2023.


With March and the basketball season’s most important games a little more than a week away, Duke continues to show the kind of offense Jon Scheyer hoped it could.

It’s been an endurance test to get here, but in its 79-62 win over Louisville on Monday night, Duke (20-8, 11-6 ACC) protected the ball, scored both inside and on the perimeter (including hitting 3-pointers) and even mixed in some fast-break points for fun.

It’s easy to dismiss fine play against the last-place Cardinals (4-24,2-15). But the traits Duke showed against Louisville have also been on display against more talented teams of late as the Blue Devils have strung together three consecutive wins.

Carelessness with the basketball — as evidenced by 43 turnovers combined while losing 81-59 at Miami and 69-62 in overtime at Virginia earlier this month — has plagued the Blue Devils often this season.

It’s why, in ACC play, Duke, having turned it over on 19.4% of its possessions, still ranks No. 14 in the 15-team league, according to KenPom.com.

While beating Louisville, the Blue Devils committed only six turnovers, their season low in league play. Duke’s 0.98% turnover rate is its lowest against any opponent.

“The difference in winning and losing is when you turn the ball over,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “It’s a huge difference.”

Duke had only eight turnovers while beating Notre Dame 68-64 on Feb. 14. According to KenPom, Louisville and Notre Dame are the two worst ACC defenses in terms of forcing turnovers.

But, in between those two games, the Blue Devils played at Syracuse. Using its 2-3 zone defense, the Orange are the second-best ACC defense in forcing turnovers in league games, doing so at an 18.9% clip.

Duke struggled early with turnovers, then committed only one while reeling off a game-changing 21-2 run in the first half. After halftime Duke had just two more turnovers until the deep reserves added two more in the game’s final minute.

Regardless, Scheyer said, his team had 10 turnovers combined over its last three halves of basketball. That’s part of a winning formula.

“That’s a trend I hope we can continue to see,” Scheyer said.

Duke will if guards Jeremy Roach and Tyrese Proctor continue their fine play. Neither player turned it over against Louisville. Roach contributed a team-high six assists during the game while Proctor had three.

During this three-game winning streak, Roach has 12 assists against four turnovers. Proctor has 13 assists and five turnovers.

Their steady play is helping Duke be a more potent shooting and scoring team.

The Blue Devils have averaged 19 assists per game over their last three games. Duke has shot 48.8% over those same three games, better than its 44.1% shooting percentage for the season.

Familiarity is beginning to make a difference.

“We’re getting a feel for each other,” Scheyer said. “Early in the year, we’ve had to do a lot of different things when you talk about the roles that guys are playing and the continuity. So just the experience of playing with each other, understanding who’s going to be where and then just understanding the value of every play.”

Against Louisville, Duke made 40% of its 3-pointers (9 of 22). That makes the Blue Devils 27 of 58 (39.7%) during their winning streak as opposed to 33.2% for the season.

These are important improvements.

While Roach (14 points) and Proctor (12 points) delivered, Duke also saw three others players score in double-figures against Louisville: Kyle Filipowski and Mark Mitchell each had 13 with Dereck Lively contributing 10.

That’s all five starters with 10 points or more. Jacob Grandison also scored nine points off the bench.

The Blue Devils have plenty of players that can score, something that will make them tough to knock out of either the ACC or NCAA tournaments.

But, before then, Duke has home games with Virginia Tech on Saturday and N.C. State on Tuesday prior to the regular-season finale at North Carolina.

The Blue Devils lost road games to N.C. State and Virginia Tech in January. They look like a different team now and are eager to have another shot at the Wolfpack and Hokies.

“We’ve had a good stretches, really, the last couple of weeks,” Scheyer said. “Not to say we haven’t had a game where we haven’t played as well. But we’re trending in the right direction and we’ll continue to learn and grow.”

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Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. He placed second in both beat writing and breaking news in the 2019 Associated Press Sports Editors national contest. Previously, Steve worked for The State (Columbia, SC), Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, S.C.), The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.), Charlotte Observer and Hickory (NC) Daily Record covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly. He’s won numerous state-level press association awards. Steve graduated from Illinois State University in 1989.

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