Duke basketball’s inside presence and free-throw shooting lead to a comfortable win over fellow ranked opponent Michigan State in the State Farm Classic in Chicago.

The 9th ranked Duke Blue Devils rode an early surge to win easily over #18 Michigan State. Duke got out to a 29-20 lead before half, and kept that pace, never trailing in the second half and winning 74-65. Caleb Foster led the way for Duke, posting 18 points off the bench on 4/5 from beyond the arc. Kyle Filipowski paced the Duke starters with 15 of his own. On the other side, Tyson Walker led all scorers with 22 for MSU.

Takeaway #1: Blue Devils got to the line

Duke managed to get to the charity stripe 30 times in the contest, converting on 24 of those free throws. Michigan State only got to the line 12 times, knocking down seven shots. Duke’s ability to draw contact and get to the line were the biggest reason they were able to pull away early and lead the entire second half.

Mark Mitchell led the charge at the free throw line, knocking down all nine of his attempts to reach his total of 13 points. Kyle Filipowski converted on five of seven attempts as well. Duke’s front court did an excellent job of drawing contact in the lane and getting to the line, rather than trying to get fancy and taking a low percentage shot.

Filipowksi took eight shots in the paint, and Mitchell, although attempting only three field goals, all in the paint, still was aggressive with the rock down low and able to draw contact. The front court establishing the paint spreads the floor for Duke and is able to compact the defense and allow for open perimeter shots. In the loss to Arizona, Duke attempted only 12 free throws. For the Blue Devils to truly reach their ceiling, continuing to get to the line and attacking the paint is critical.

Takeaway #2: Points off the pine

Duke was led by freshman Caleb Foster on the bench, leading the team with 18 points. Ryan Young added eight points of his own off the bench. In comparison, Michigan State had only 10 points off the bench, being lead by Carson Cooper with four.

Duke having two legit threats off the bench who can give different looks to that of those in the starting five and give the Blue Devil offense a different dynamic that can be huge going forward. On the other side, Michigan State needs a lot more bench presence. The Spartans are slipping fast and could find themselves on the outside of the Top 25 next Monday. Two early losses was definitely not in Tom Izzy’s crystal ball, but now, he and the Spartans need to bounce back and get back to the top of the rankings.

Takeaway #3: Shooting woes continue for Duke

Despite the win, there are still some concerns in Durham. Duke shot 27.3% from beyond the arc, going 6/22. If it was not for Caleb Foster’s 4/5 showing from three, Duke would have shot just 2/17, an 11.7% rate. The Blue Devils are shooting just 33% in their first three games, a pretty subpar clip for a team that shoots at such a high volume.

Duke needs to raise their percentage, one way or another. A 33% clip from three-point range is not a number that can win any championship, let alone the teams end goal of a national title. The biggest thing for Duke is the keep attacking the paint. Their big and physical front court will start to draw defenders into the paint and lead to more open looks rather than contested shots.

If Caleb Foster is the shooter, Duke has to continue to give him the majority of minutes. And someone else needs to step up and be an option from three, preferably a guard so the bigs can bang down low.

Next game for the Duke Blue Devils: vs. Bucknell (Nov. 17 – 6 p.m.)

Next game for the Michigan State Spartans: vs. Butler (Nov. 17 – 6:30 p.m.)

By Samuel Bass

Writing sports, college basketball, ACC hoops

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