Duke 69, Texas Tech 58
Let’s not lie to anyone here. That was an incredibly ugly game. Duke couldn’t make a shot. Texas Tech looked like it was struggling to dribble. The refs were thrilled to call charges every other minute. And Duke won by 11.
And that’s goddamn terrifying if you’re not a Duke fan.
It’s not like they beat a sub-100 team or anything like that. They beat one of the 15 best teams in the country who forced them into a game that Duke has absolutely no desire to play. Texas Tech has one the frontline that can match up with Duke. We saw them rely on that and the defensive scheme of packing it in with rotations to force Duke into shooting threes and driving into traffic. It was perfectly executed – for nearly 38 minutes.
Now, what makes it even more terrifying for opponents? The fact that Duke had yet another ‘breakout’ game from arguably the most valuable player on its roster. Zion Williamson is the best player. RJ Barrett is probably the best scorer. But, Tre Jones is the most valuable player. He showed that, starting on the defensive side of the ball. Duke had no right being within 10 in the first half and it was just down 1 at half. That’s because Jones was an absolute menace defensively – finishing with 6 steals. His ability to create those live ball turnovers (this isn’t even factoring in the times he was dogging a ball handler leading to a lazy pass or bad shot) is where Duke is at its best. His ability to do that turns defense into offense and Zion dunks like you see at the top of the blog.
Before we go on about Duke, I want to talk about Texas Tech real quick. Get used to them being good. Well, get used to them being good as long as Chris Beard is there. He’s one of the 15 best coaches in America and there are very few coaches that develop talent like him. He’s in the same tier of what John Beilein is able to do in that sense. One of those guys is Jarrett Culver, who looked the part of a top-15 pick in the upcoming draft. Culver finished with 26 points and while he had 6 turnovers he’s playing as more of the lead guard in this game. He’s better suited with more ball-handlers around him and some more consistent offense.
Ultimately two things happened. Texas Tech’s offense is just too inconsistent right now – finishing the game without a field goal for the last 6 minutes and Duke’s talent. That’s what it comes down to. Duke has the ability to get help from guys like Jack White, who hit a couple threes late. Cam Reddish who struggled shooting hit a corner three late. RJ Barrett was able to get into the lane and hit a couple floaters. All of this happened with Zion on the bench as he fouled out after a couple of questionable offensive foul calls.
But, mark this game down. Duke had no business winning this game for about 33 minutes or so. This will be one that people point back at when Tre Jones continues to be that consistent, steady point guard. This will be one that Duke can go back on as we can win these low scoring, ugly games. And that’s terrifying.