Alex O’Connell has improved.
AOC could always shoot. That was what he was useful for in his first two seasons. Last night AOC was not connecting at a high percentage but was still able to make an impact. With four rebounds, three steals and two assists AOC was able to put together an impressive stat line that was more than just coming in and chucking shots all over the floor.
The most notable play from last night was in the first half when he stormed towards the rim and finished a thunderous (for O’Connell) put back dunk. That was a play that you would have never seen from AOC over the last few seasons. The junior has taken the next step in development and will be a key piece off the bench for Duke this season.
Cassius Stanley is a spark plug.
Duke obviously lost its offensive spark plugs in Zion and RJ Barrett. At a time in the second half when the Blue Devils were showing their youth and lack off firepower, Cassius Stanley was the guy that ignited the rally. Two thunderous dunks off of Kansas turnovers inspired the team.
With just 2:29 left in the game it was Stanley hat was able to drive to the hoop and lay it in while being fouled. After he sunk the free throw Duke took a one-point lead, one they would never relinquish. Stanley had 11 of his 13 points in the second half, showing where the ball may be going in a time of need for Duke.
This defense is very good.
Tre Jones is widely considered the best on ball defender in all of college basketball. His intensity showed in his teammates. Kansas turned the ball over at an alarming rate, finishing the game with 28 turnovers. While Duke cannot rely on a lack of ball security at that rate, they can rely on the effort from all five positions.
Kansas had a clear advantage with their size on the interior. The Duke team defensive plan was to double the bigs as soon as possible. They did it to perfection. The bigs doubled and while the guards were able to rotate and take away the outlet passes. The fact that Kansas got zero points from back to the basket posts and just four points on passes out of the double teams is a huge reason for them pulling out the victory.