NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh: A closer look at Duke’s 87-62 win over Rhode Island

March 31, 2018 GMT


It was over when: Duke shook off Rhode Island’s early momentum with a 18-4 run that put the Blue Devils in full control. The spurt turned an 11-10 Rhode Island lead into a 28-14 Duke advantage, and the Rams never got the deficit under double digits. Duke led by as many as 29 points in the second half.

Play of the game: Grayson Allen converted a four-point play early in Duke’s game-defining run. Duke’s lone senior drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key while drawing a foul on Rhode Island’s Fatts Russell. The ensuing free throw gave the Blue Devils a 19-11 lead.

Player of the game: Marvin Bagley III. The 6-foot-11 freshman made full use of his size advantage against the lower-seeded Rams. He brought his impact at both ends for Duke, finishing with 22 points and nine rebounds, including some explosive dunks. The projected NBA lottery pick also stepped out behind the arc and hit a 3-pointer.

Turning point: Duke got field goals from all five of its players on the court during the go-ahead run in the first half. Wendell Carter Jr. began the run with a jumper, Gary Trent Jr. hit a pair of 3-pointers, Allen got his four-point play, Trevon Duval hit a jumper and Bagley had a layup and a pair of free throws. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils held Rhode Island to just a E.C. Matthews 3-pointer during the stretch as the Rams went 1-for-4 with two turnovers.

Key stat: Until deep in the second half, Duke’s bench had zero points. That didn’t matter as the Blue Devils’ starters all reached double figures. Bagley scored a team-high 22, Trent had 18, Carter had 13, Duval 11 and Allen 10. The Blue Devils have plenty of offensive versatility with the 6-foot-11 Bagley and Carter and strong shooters Allen, Duval and Trent, and they’re proving it so far in the NCAA Tournament. They shot 58 percent from the field — Bagley and Carter combined for a 14-of-16 showing — and hit 10 3-pointers.

Unsung hero: Carter sometimes gets overshadowed by the more-heralded Bagley. He shouldn’t. The 6-foot-11 freshman is a projected NBA lottery pick himself, and he showed why Saturday by hitting all six of his field-goal attempts and adding six rebounds and a block.

Quote of the game: “Teams are going to really try to come and beat us. We can’t give them life. If we give them life and confidence, then it’s going to be a really tough game. Pretty much I’ve learned to learn to step on their neck from the beginning of the game.” — Duval, on lessons learned from his first two NCAA Tournament games