Preview: Duke v. Fairfield

The Blue Devils and Stags tip off tonight in Cameron Indoor Stadium





?F- 00 Mike Kirkland (2.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
F- 14 Marcus Gilbert (21.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg)
?F- 21 Amadou Sidibe (10.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg)
G- 20 K.J. Rose (10.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
?G- 23 Steve Johnston (4.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg.)

?Junior captain Amadou Sidibe is Fairfield’s best interior player - blue collar type out of the Bronx, NY area. As he enters his third season in the Stags program, Sidibe’s offense is beginning to catch up to his rebounding prowess. As a sophomore he led the team in boards, and collected 10 or more eight times a season ago.

In the season opener the 6-foot-7, 225 pound Sidibe started extremely slow, being held scorelessand grabbing three boards in the first 20 minutes of the game. He picked it up after the break with nine points and 10 boards to finish with his first double-double of the season. The slow start was a microcosm of the team’s beginning (falling behind by 10 to Central Connecticut State), suggesting that as their captain goes, Fairfield goes.

On the wing the Stags rely heavily on 6-foot-6 junior Marcus Gilbert, the tea’s leading scorer in the opener (21 points). Long and rangy, Gilbert is one of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s top three point shooters, hitting 37 percent of his attempts a season ago as the team’s second leading scorer. In the opener the team launched 20 perimeter attempts with Gilbert accounting for nine of those (hitting three). He’s also a decent enough rebounder from the wing position, helped account for a general lack of size up front for the Stags.


Fairfield battled early and eventually pulled away from the Blue Devils on Friday night, winning 71-63 before hoping on an airplane to North Carolina to face another set of Blue Devils. A much different version.

Duke would pose a number of problems for Fairfield on any given night, but to play in Cameron a little more than 24 hours after walking out of the TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden, Connecticut is a bit daunting. The Stags are somewhat familiar with trip, having played at Duke thrice before - an experience that resulted in Duke winning all three games by an average of 33.0 points per game. For their sake, Fairfield’s coaches and players are coming off a positive performance in the opener, and hoping it translates into Saturday night.

"It's great to start the season with a win," coach Sydney Johnson said. "Playing a top-five program like Duke tomorrow night on their court is not an easy task. It was important for us to get some confidence heading into that game and we accomplished that tonight."

In order to pull the upset, however, the Stags will need to shoot the ball better than the did against those other Blue Devils. Fairfield connected on 22-of-55 from the field overall and only six of 20 from the perimeter. The Stags compensated by out-rebounding Central Connecticut by six and locking down their opponents to the tune of 34 percent shooting by CCSU.

Against Duke, they’ll need all that effort and more after the Blue Devils shot 60.9 percent, hit 16 3-pointers and had 30 assists - three shy of the school record - in the third-most lopsided victory in school history.

That’s the question head coach Mike Krzyzewski will be asking of his team as they play five games in nine days with match-ups against Michigan State, Temple, and Stanford/UNLV on the agenda. Following the game against Fairfield, Duke will fly to Indianapolis for Tuesday’s game against the Spartans before heading to Brooklyn for the game against Temple on Friday.

“[We have] a lot of travel, and really good competition, so we will see who we are after those (nine) days,” said Mike Krzyzewski of his team. “They were practicing well and working really hard. They are a good group.”

While Coach K may be interested in who the Blue Devils are or could become, at least one coach is pretty sure of what the Blue Devils will be.

“They got the whole gamut,” said Presbyterian Head Coach Gregg Nibert following his team’s season opening loss to Duke. “They’re good, I mean they’re really good and I know you know they’re well coached. The weapons that they have are tremendous. They got five guys and they got five more coming off the bench and they’re cheering for each other and pulling for each other and that’s on November 14th. They’ll be scary in March, if everyone keeps being excited and pulling for each other and I know they will.”

Questions To Be Answered

1. Can Youth Remain Mature?
There was no doubt the freshman class was ready to go in the opener. The quartet of Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, and Grayson Allen combined for 67 points with Okafor leading the team in scoring with 19 points and Allen finishing second with 18.

"I felt comfortable from tap to finish," said Okafor, who shot 9 of 10. "I didn't feel uncomfortable at any point.”

“All four of them bring a different skill or different thing to the table, and all four of them are very mature,” said Quinn Cook of his new teammates. “They pick up things well, and I can’t say enough about them. They’re great – all four of them.”

Following the terrific debut, it’s now time for the Blue Devils to immediately get back to work. They weren’t challenged on Friday night, and have another massive talent advantage on Saturday. But can the team maintain focus? Avoid the pitfalls of inconsistency? That’s tough for any team, and even more so for a group that will start three true freshmen and play six underclassmen for extended minutes.

“If we are playing really hard we should be able to win big,” said Coach K. “We need to keep up that consistency.”

2. Continued lineup changes?
Throughout the preseason and through both exhibition games the Blue Devils started Matt Jones at shooting guard. Then, when the opener arrived, the sophomore was on the bench in favor of senior Quinn Cook. Ultimately it didn’t really matter as Krzyzewski played 10 players at least 13 minutes, and nobody playing more than 25.

When question about Jones and the lineup change in the post-game press conference, Krzyzewksi said the versatile scoring guard, along with Rasheed Sulaimon, could both start or come off the bench to provide a spark depending on the match-up and the practices preceding the immediate game. As for Jones…

“He has practiced really well and can start or come off the bench. When he came in he made about eight decisions offensively and defensively that were all right; where he was supposed to be, who he was supposed to pass to, how he was playing defense. Those are things we are looking for.”

With four starting positions seemingly locked down by Okafor, Tyus Jones, Amile Jefferson, and Justise Winslow, it appears as though the fifth starter could continually change, though it’s likely the real answers will become a bit clearer next week when the competition begins to ramp up. Until that time it seems as though Duke will continue to utilize a rotation of 10.


- This is the 110th season of Duke basketball. Over the previous 109 years the team has compiled a record of 2,029-848.

- Coach K will win his 1,000th game at some point this season. His career record is 984-306 while his Duke mark stands at 911-247.

- The Blue Devils have won 34 straight games on Coach K Court and 110 straight games against non-conference opponents inside Cameron Indoor. The 69-point win against Presbyterian was the third largest margin of victory in Blue Devil history.

- The freshman quartet of Allen, Jones, Okafor and Winslow combined to score 67 points, tying for the most points scored by four freshmen in a game in Duke history. Duke’s four freshmen shot a combined 26-of-37 (.703) from the field.

They Said It:

“It’s definitely a dream. We’ve got a tremendous amount of talent on this team at every position, and it definitely makes my job a lot easier.” - Tyus Jones

The Prediction

Much like the season opener, it’s hard to find a reason the season’s second outcome should be in any more doubt than the first. The Blue Devils enjoy a tremendous talent advantage, and while Fairfield is certainly a stronger opponent than Presbyterian, it’s unlikely the Stags will be able to withstand Duke’s depth and pressure for 40 minutes. The question for Duke will center around maintaining consistency of effort and focus. The blowout on Friday was terrific, but at some point the shots will rattle out, and the good looks will result in empty possessions. How will a young team respond to those challenges? Can Duke continue to play the kind of defense exhibited in the opener? A lot of these questions probably won’t be answered for extended periods against Fairfield, but it’s fair to ask them, and it’ll be interesting to see the early answers in what should be another big win.

Duke - 93
Fairfield - 62

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