Five Lessons from the 1st Duke Blue Devils – MSU game


Saturday will not be the first meeting between the Michigan State Spartans and the Duke Blue Devils this season. Way back in November, the two teams met and the Devils walked away with a ten point 81-71 victory. It was a game that the Blue Devils never trailed. Duke salted it away with a 13-0 run to keep Michigan State out of it. Were there any lessons to be gleaned from that contest?

1. Jahlil Okafor feasted on the Spartans front court with FG%

Okafor had an early big performance in that game. He shot 8 of ten from the field. That got him seventeen points. This was one of those highlight games, where Okafor demonstrated a number of moves. The Spartans have more tape of him now.

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2. Okafor’s other stat line was not overwhelming

A less experienced Okafor collected only five rebounds against the Spartans and also collected four fouls. Okafor has delivered consistently better rebounding performances since. He also committed more fouls and that would be a worry for Duke. That also may be attributed to not having played enough games yet. Okafor did have two blocks, and perhaps he was too aggressive.

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3. Duke’s Big Four in November are Duke’s Big Four now.

The producers in that early game were Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, and Quinn Cook. That is the same deal now, just that Amil Jefferson does not start any more. Rasheed Sulaimon contributed little in twelve minutes, and he will obviously not be playing on Saturday.

4. Michigan State has played with its starting lineup since November

Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello were starters back in November, and they have been displaced by Gavin Schilling and Tum Tum Nairn. So there will be a different five out there for the Spartans.

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  • 5. Branden Dawson had a big game

    We know Dawson is a big part of Michigan State, but he had a good game against the larger Duke frontcourt. He matched Okafor’s 8 of 10 shooting and pulled down nine rebounds. The Spartans’ problem was that they did not have a fourth man to match Duke’s four. Dawson, Denzel Valentine, and Travis Trice all scored in double figures.

    It will be interesting to see how the earlier game affects the later game. It some cases, things have not changed that much. In others, they will be brand new.