Analysis: Duke does everything right to advance to Sweet 16

Wendell Carter Jr. scored in the paint. Gary Trent Jr. and Grayson Allen hit outside shots.

All of that happened before Duke star freshman Marvin Bagley III attempted his first shot. Once he got involved, the No. 2-seed Blue Devils were on their way to another lopsided win.

All 5 of Duke’s starters scored in double figures as they cruised into the Sweet 16 with an 87-62 victory over No. 7-seed Rhode Island on Saturday in Pittsburgh. By the end, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski was able to rest his starters and give his reserves playing time.

It looked too easy — as if the Blue Devils (28-7) were overpowering another nonconference opponent in December instead of a tough Rhode Island team in March. The Rams (26-8) entered the weekend with momentum after holding star freshman Trae Young in check to earn an 83-78 win over Oklahoma in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

But Duke made sure it wasn’t about to get surprised by a mid-major like what happened to ACC rival Virginia on Friday.

Bagley had 22 points and 9 rebounds, Trent scored 19 and the Blue Devils added to their 17-point halftime lead to take a 64-37 advantage in the second half.

Duke will face either No. 3-seed Michigan State or No. 11 Syracuse in the Sweet 16 in Omaha, Neb.

Relying on Marvin Bagley III

Marvin Bagley was fine with letting his teammates get involved and carry the offense.

The ACC Player of the Year remained patient, not attempting a shot until he scored his first points on a layup with 8 minutes, 22 remaining seconds in the first half. However, he asserted himself after his slow start.

Bagley scored 8 points before halftime and was even more dominant in the second half, getting to the rim and throwing down dunks with ease. Rhode Island had no way of slowing him down, especially since it also had to worry about Duke’s other scorers.

Bagley has scored 22 points in each of Duke’s first two games in the NCAA Tournament. He has been efficient, making 18 of 24 shots.

The 6-foot-11 forward made 2-of-3 shots in the first half against Rhode Island and finished 8 of 10. He also made 5 of 7 free-throw attempts.

Playing defense

Rhode Island needed to make shots and avoid turnovers if it hoped to upset Duke.

The Rams did neither — at least not enough.

Duke used its size and quickness to keep Rhode Island from getting into an offensive rhythm, holding the Rams to just 28 points on 36.7 percent shooting in the first half. They shot 39.7 percent for the game, making only 7 of 19 3-point attempts.

After taking a 5-point lead in the first 2 minutes of the game, Rhode Island’s offense stalled and was never able to get back into sync. The Rams committed 7 of their 13 turnovers in the first half, and even their free-throw shooting was dreadful (5 of 13 for 38.5 percent).

Senior guard Jared Terell, Rhode’s Island’s leading scorer at 17 points per game, missed all 5 of his shots to score just 1 point in the first half. He finished with 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting.

Wendell Carter Jr.’s start

Duke got off to a slow start, but then Wendell Carter took control and attacked the basket.

The star freshman scored 7 of the Blue Devils’ first 10 points, giving them a boost after falling behind 7-2 in the first 2:13 to Rhode Island.

Carter revealed this week that he has been playing with a sore Achilles’ tendon caused by a sprained ankle suffered earlier in the season. But he showed no signs of being bothered by it early against the Rams.

In a span of less than 4 minutes, Carter made a dunk, completed a 3-point play and hit a midrange jumper. He scored 9 points in the first half, matching his total in Duke’s 89-67 win over No. 15-seed Iona in the first round.

Carter made all 6 of his shots and his only free-throw attempt Saturday, finishing with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.

The post Analysis: Duke does everything right to advance to Sweet 16 appeared first on Diehards.

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