Duke’s last test before final exams comes against an Ivy League school.
It’s the time of the year that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski frequently references as ripe for potential distractions for his team.
Saturday’s game against visiting Yale at Cameron Indoor Stadium could be challenging in several ways.
“Exam week is next week so everything is wrapping up this week,” freshman forward RJ Barrett said of some off-court responsibilities. “It has been a tough week academically, but we’ve just got to keep our minds right.”
Third-ranked Duke (8-1) has rattled off three romps in a row since the loss to now-No. 1 Gonzaga.
“This week is that time of the year that has been very difficult for our teams over the last 10 years,” Krzyzewski said. “Exams are next week. Often this week is harder than exams because of all the projects and papers.”
Serve it up. 🎁🎁🎁🎁 @ZionW32 @RjBarrett6 😱😱😱 #SCTop10 #DukeMBBTop5 pic.twitter.com/ddhzH8jWpz
— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) December 6, 2018
Duke teams have generally fared well in December. After defeating Hartford 84-54 on Wednesday night, the Blue Devils improved to 202-29 in December games in Krzyzewski’s 39 seasons.
Yale (4-2), which has played only one home game, owns a victory against Atlantic Coast Conference member Miami.
Yale’s travels have included a trip to China, where the Bulldogs opened the season by defeating California. The time away from home has produced benefits.
“It has developed our bond, our chemistry a little bit,” senior guard Trey Phills, who’s from Charlotte, N.C., and will be playing in his home state.
Junior guard Miye Oni scored 29 points in the Miami game.
Oni’s 18.8 points per game leads four Yale players with double-figure averages. Three others average more than 8 points per game.
“What’s interesting is we have a bunch of other guys on the bench waiting their turn to come in and do the same thing,” Yale coach James Jones said of the scoring options.
Duke had some sluggish moments in the Hartford game. That development caused Krzyzewski to call a time-out and pounded his chair with a few drilling-type motions in front of the team.
It apparently served as a good wake-up maneuver.
“It just makes us respect him more because it just shows how much he wants to win and how much he sees in us,” freshman forward Zion Williamson said.
Krzyzewski said the Blue Devils can’t accept energy dips.
“We better show up, and we did,” Krzyzewski said. “We really played well the last 16, 17 minutes of the game, obviously, or else the game would’ve been a close game. It wasn’t at the end because we played so hard. Our defense got ramped up.”
Duke leads the country in blocked shots, with registering 10 or more rejections in five of the games.
Duke leads the series with Yale by 5-0, including two victories in the 2015-16 season.
In March 2016, Duke ended Yale’s most successful season by winning an NCAA Tournament second-round matchup in Providence, R.I. That concluded a 23-win season for the Bulldogs.
After this game, Duke will come out of exams with a Dec. 18 meeting with Ivy League member Princeton.