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No. 2 Duke welcomes Loyola (Md.) in COVID-adjusted schedule

Sportsnaut
Dec 16, 2021; Durham, North Carolina, USA;  Duke Blue Devils guards Jeremy Roach (3), Wendell Moore (0) and Trevor Keels (1) talk during a timeout in the second half against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 16, 2021; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils guards Jeremy Roach (3), Wendell Moore (0) and Trevor Keels (1) talk during a timeout in the second half against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Duke has one last tune-up before heading into Atlantic Coast Conference play, and coach Mike Krzyzewzki is determined to make the most of the chance for his team to keep “getting to know each other.”

COVID-19 protocols prompted a schedule change, so the Blue Devils will take on visiting Loyola (Md.) on Saturday in Durham, N.C.

“The last few games, we’ve introduced AJ (Griffin) more, because he’s ready, and Joey (Baker has played more),” Krzyzewzki said.

Duke (9-1) was supposed to play Cleveland State on Saturday. However, COVID protocols involving the Vikings’ program led to the cancellation, and when Duke sought a replacement, Loyola was willing to fill in.

The Blue Devils have cranked up the offense since returning from a two-week layoff, scoring 103 points against South Carolina State and 92 against Appalachian State in lopsided wins this week. The Blue Devils knocked down 15 shots from 3-point range in each of those games.

It’s only the second time in program history Duke has bagged 15 or more 3s in consecutive games. The other time came nearly 21 years ago.

“That was a big emphasis for us, just spacing the floor and making it easier on each other,” Duke forward Paolo Banchero said. “Then driving it, if we draw another defender, kicking it or dropping it off, just making the easy play.”

The point production has spread throughout the lineup, making the Blue Devils more difficult to defend.

“You don’t really know who hit the (key) shot,” Wendell Moore Jr. said. “That’s kind of how we like it. Whether it’s me hitting a shot, Trevor (Keels), AJ [Griffin), Mark (Williams) getting a dunk, all we know is that Duke is scoring. If we’re scoring, that’s all that matters.”

Five Duke players are averaging more than nine points per game, led by Moore at 17.4 and Banchero at 17.0.

Loyola (6-5), which has won five of its last six games, did some schedule juggling to make this happen.

The Greyhounds canceled next Tuesday’s home game against Division III Goucher because adding Duke to the slate would have put Loyola over the limit of permitted contests. For Goucher, that would have been an exhibition game.

“We are excited about the opportunity to play at Duke this weekend,” Loyola coach Tavaras Hardy said. “Duke has been a standard of excellence in college basketball, and this year it takes on an added significance of playing in Cameron (Indoor Stadium) during Coach Krzyzewski’s last season.”

It’s Loyola’s second visit to the same region in North Carolina this season. The Greyhounds opened the schedule with a loss to North Carolina in nearby Chapel Hill. They’re 1-4 in road games.

Because of the schedule shifts, Loyola will have a layoff off until Dec. 28 after playing Saturday. Hardy praised the flexibility shown by Goucher, which, like Loyola, is located in Baltimore.

“We look forward to being back in Reitz Arena early in 2022,” Hardy said of the team’s home venue.

–Field Level Media