NCAA Basketball

No. 2 Duke shifts focus from academics to Appalachian State

The intent this week for No. 2 Duke is to make sure there's improvement.

So far, so good, although after returning from a two-week layoff there's still plenty that needs to be discovered for the Blue Devils.

They'll attempt to gain more valuable experience when Appalachian State visits for Thursday night's game in Durham, N.C.

"We are nine games into the season. We just have to keep getting better," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It's a long year. For a number of these guys, it's their ninth college game. They're not veterans yet and they might not be veterans until March, if they even are by that time."

The Blue Devils (8-1) should be tuned into basketball for a few weeks because end-of-semester exams have been completed.

"I would say it was more of mental stuff going on during the last two weeks, because we had a lot of exams and you've got to focus in on your practice," reserve AJ Griffin said. "It's really just about locking in and getting your schoolwork done as soon as possible, and then you just focus on basketball for the next two weeks."

Duke drubbed overmatched South Carolina State 103-62 on Tuesday night. Griffin, a freshman, posted a season-high 19 points.

But more than the lopsided score, there were important components for Duke. Guard Joey Baker said the team used the time between games to work on becoming more efficient, something that waned in the Nov. 30 loss to Ohio State.

That worked in several ways in the South Carolina State game. The Blue Devils were accurate on perimeter shooting, going 15-for-27 on 3-point attempts.

"We wanted to try to get 25 assists all together and just really try to share the ball and play as a team," Griffin said. "You see the open guy, and it's a great feeling hitting the guy and just seeing the shot go in for your teammate."

Only half of the victories for Appalachian State (6-5) have come against Division I opponents. The Mountaineers are 0-2 in true road games, and there's another visit to North Carolina's Triangle region to take on North Carolina next week.

"We've got a very challenging schedule," coach Dustin Kerns said.

The visit from Appalachian State will mark the second game of a four-game homestand for the Blue Devils.

"The main thing is getting back in (game) shape," Krzyzewski said.

Appalachian State defeated Division II Erskine 69-44 in its final nonconference home game Monday night. Kerns said the Mountaineers have benefitted from some games against lower-division opponents because it has allowed them to build confidence.

Adrian Delph is the leading scorer for the Mountaineers with 15.8 points per game. Of his 64 made field goals, 27 have been 3-pointers.

Appalachian State uses a lineup that's extremely guard-oriented. That set-up could be exposed against Duke, which has an imposing post presence.

"I think our depth is a strength of ours right now," Kerns said.

Duke was without reserve post player Theo John on Tuesday night because of a back injury, so that affects the Blue Devils' front court depth.

Duke has won eight of the nine all-time meetings with Appalachian State, including by 93-58 in 2016 in the most recent matchup.

--Field Level Media

Updated December 15, 2021

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