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Duke vs. Pitt comeback includes escape game for Derek Lively

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DURHAM, NC — Three takeaways from Duke’s 77-69 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday, starting with…

1. The race and how it happened

So the first half. You have to mention it – in all its calamity – to set the scene.

It looks like this: Duke has more turnovers (12) than field goals (10), shoots 30.3% and drops 12 in just 10 minutes. It’s bad. And just when it looked like things might be looking up, when Duke cut the deficit to two, the final four minutes happened. It’s hard to discern which stat is more incriminating: Pitt went 9-0; Duke didn’t score for the final 3:43; or he misses all but one of his last 10 shots.

Thus, Jon Scheyer made an adjustment at halftime. His bigs had mostly played against Pitt’s ball-screen situations, but Pitt’s coach (and former Duke assistant) Jeff Capel attacked that defense again and again. Capel consistently created offsets for his perimeter players, allowing them to drive downhill in the pick-and-roll for midrange runners and jumpers. So it’s no surprise that Pitt scored 1,162 points per possession in the first half. But eventually, Scheyer had had enough and told his team to start changing everything.

“They gave people problems in the pick-and-roll, and they space you out really well,” Scheyer said. “They have a lot of guys who can create rebounds, and so when you put two on the ball they spin you around and it’s very difficult.”

Of course, the change meant Scheyer would sometimes have a big guy — like 7-foot-1, 230-pound Derek Lively — defending a guard or wing in space. (That’s less of a problem for Kyle Filipowski, who despite being 7 feet tall has shown a propensity this season to defend in space.)

“Naturally you try to go to five,” Scheyer said, “but we thought that was an advantage for us.”

When Scheyer and his team first recruited Lively, they envisioned him as a switchable perimeter defender, and now was the time to release him.

“We felt like this was going to be a coming out game for Derek,” the coach said.

Would you watch this: It was.

Influenced by the length and speed of Lively’s foot on the perimeter, Duke effectively neutralized Pitt’s pick-and-roll offense, forcing the Panthers to – essentially – play a one-on-one offense.

The result? A 15-0 run that moved Duke from eight to seven.

“They expect every team they play to give up, not get on their toes, and stay ahead of them,” Lively said. “I knew they were shocked because I saw they were shocked.”

Pitt went more than eight minutes without making a basket and 6:45 without scoring a point.

It wasn’t a ballgame per se, but it was really close.

Now Duke had to correct their scoring situation in the same period, but the defense was also a boost in this regard. After having just five quick break points in the first half, the Blue Devils had 16 in the second, turning interceptions and live turnovers into a transition attack. By the time Pitt started scoring again late, Duke had worn down the Panthers’ thin, youthful frontcourt and was continuing to kick the ball inside. It’s no coincidence that Filipowski had a career-high 28 points and the team recorded its most offensive rebounds in a game this season.

But that single decision by Scheyer — and his guys’ subsequent execution, obviously — was as critical to Duke’s comeback victory as anything. In the process, Duke overcame its biggest halftime deficit (11) in a win since 2017, proving Scheyer’s team has more of a fight than they may have been credited with.

2. Lively’s defensive emergence and where it stands

It wasn’t Lively’s highest-scoring game, but it was arguably his most important at the college level. Despite committing a foul in just 12 minutes, he had a respectable stat line – six points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block – and had a defensive impact that goes beyond scoring. of the box.

Perfect? No. But progress, certainly.

As the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2022, expectations for Lively have been sky high since he set foot on campus … and it’s not unfair to say he’s struggled to meet them. meet, as well as his own.

“You come here, there’s a lot of expectations,” Scheyer said. “He really wants to do well, and so you end up – I don’t mean overthinking – but you end up putting pressure on yourself.”

Lively even admitted after the match that he did just that: dwell on every mistake he made, to his own detriment.

“I was so focused on every little piece that they started growing on me and eating away at me,” he said. Athleticism. “Really, you just have to get out of your head. You need to stop worrying about errors.

It hasn’t been easy, Lively said, but he was finally tired of marinating on every misstep, especially after not starting the last two games.

“It kinda gets to a point where you have to say fuck the hell up,” he said. “Just put your head down and do it.”

That’s exactly what he did on Wednesday. And while the defensive chops have been there all season, albeit in limited minutes, we’ve also seen offensive progress against Pitt from a player who finally looked like he was having fun. Lively showed her first real post move of the season in the second half – a drop step into a hook from the glass – and got a back assist into the lane for a cutting Filipowski.

Lively may never be a 10+ points-per-game scorer at the college level, but as long as he maintains defensive versatility while at least trying to score from his points, Duke will be better off for it.

“His defense, when you watch the defense change, if you want to YouTube or search it, what Derek did and how he did it was so impressive,” Scheyer said. “And I’m proud of him for putting the ball inside and going up and finishing. It changes our team if he does that.

3. Tyrese Proctor rounds the corner

With Jeremy Roach missing his second game in a row (and third this season) with a lingering big toe injury, Tyrese Proctor – the reclassified Aussie guard – once again had to lead Duke’s attack.

And did he ever.

Proctor finished with 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting, but more impressive than his score? His five assists and no turnovers in a game where Duke otherwise had just eight assists to 17 turnovers.

“He did a great job leading the team,” Scheyer said. “It’s really easy to play with. He obviously made some big scoring plays during the streak, but when your guard has five assists and no turnovers, that’s pretty good.

So what has changed for Proctor? First time. Due to the nature of his reclassification (and move to the United States), the 6-foot-5 freshman didn’t arrive on campus until August, after the rest of the class had Duke’s top rated had already been on campus together for two months. . There was a natural learning curve there, also influenced by playing alongside another keeper dominating the ball in Roach. So while Proctor has had his moments the first half of this season — in the second half against Kansas, as well as games at Purdue and Ohio State — it hasn’t been with the consistency Duke would have hoped. (Another noteworthy little note: the international game Proctor played growing up is different, in terms of strategy and rules, from American college basketball.) But now, with 17 college games under his belt?

“I’m much more confident,” Proctor said, compared to two weeks ago when he was dropped from the starting lineup. “I think I’m really starting to get into a rhythm now, and it’s (by) taking it game by game, practice by practice.”

So the big question: what happens when Roach inevitably returns (but probably not on Saturday against Clemson)?

I say keep it in Proctor’s hands and let Roach wander off the ball like a more score-oriented guard. Roach has excelled at catch-and-shoot opportunities all season. And especially at the start of his comeback, it will be a way to keep the pressure on his toe rather than having him drive and do the dishes as often. It’s as much about getting the most out of Proctor as it is about doing the same with Roach. And, frankly, the backcourt teammate Roach last played with isn’t the same player he’ll be joining.

“Tyrese, he controlled us,” Scheyer said, “and we will need him to continue to do so even when Jeremy returns.”

(Photo of Dereck Lively blocking Pittsburgh’s Blake Hinson shot: Rob Kinnan/USA Today)

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