No. 6 Duke set to face Division I newcomer Bellarmine

NCAA Basketball

Although No. 6 Duke won its first game and lost its second, coach Mike Krzyzewski says the Blue Devils’ trajectory is the right one as they head into a home game Friday night against the visiting Bellarmine Knights.

“We improved 100 percent from the first game,” Krzyzewski said despite the setback to eighth-ranked Michigan State on Tuesday night. “We’ve got a lot of learning to do. … We’re very much becoming a team.”

And while the Blue Devils already have a disappointing result, there were signs against Michigan State that things might be coming together. They shaved a 16-point deficit to five points before the final score of 75-69.

Glitches on defense were concerning, particularly when the Blue Devils have stretches of shooting woes. They’re trying to clean up their awareness on the defensive end.

“It starts with defense,” Duke forward Matthew Hurt said. “Just try to learn from it. We have to just keep being stronger.”

Duke (1-1) has another roster with freshmen figuring into prominent roles. Krzyzewski said that means there’s a need for ongoing adjustments. He said he anticipates lots to be gained from the Michigan State game because of what the Blue Devils experienced against a more veteran opponent.

“We didn’t finish,” Krzyzewski said. “We got the ball around the bucket a number of times. These games are very, very physical.”

A bright spot for Duke came from Hurt, a sophomore who turned in a 21-point, 13-rebound outing.

Instilling confidence in other players is part of the process.

“We keep playing that hard and learning, (we’ll) be very good,” Krzyzewski said.

Bellarmine, which is located in Louisville, Ky., is a Division I newcomer, has joined the Atlantic Sun Conference, and will play home games at historic Freedom Hall.

Its launch at the Division I level was delayed because of coronavirus issues, as team activities had been paused until this week.

In his 16th season, coach Scott Davenport had been intent on putting together an ambitious schedule for the Knights’ ascension to Division I, and was originally slated to open at UCLA, along with trips to Mississippi State and a Thanksgiving tournament — all of which were canceled.

So now their debut is set to come against Duke.

The Knights posted a 20-8 record in their final Division II season. They were set to play in the NCAA Division II tournament for the 12th season in a row before it was canceled. Still, by participating in the event for 11 straight years, it marked the longest stretch of consecutive appearances in Division II.

Like the Blue Devils’ opener against Coppin State, this will be another first-time opponent for Duke — at least for an official game. Bellarmine visited Cameron Indoor Stadium for an October 2011 exhibition game as the reigning Division II national champion. Duke won.

For Duke, this game was supposed to be the middle game of a three-game stretch across a six-day span, but Sunday’s slated game against Elon has been called off because of coronavirus concerns involving the Elon team.

–Field Level Media

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