Rodney Hood went for 30 points and Jabari Parker finished with 21 points, nine boards and six blocks — his fifth straight game with 20 points to start the season — as No. 6 Duke took every punch that East Carolina could throw and still managed to escape Cameron Indoor Stadium with an 83-74 win.
The Blue Devils pulled out the win, but it was a long way from what you would call an impressive victory as East Carolina was able to take advantage of some of Duke’s flaws this season.
For starters, they attacked the basket to take advantage of the lack of a rim-protector for the Blue Devils, particularly in the second half, when Duke went with their small lineup. Parker, the de-facto center, did manage to block six shots, but those blocks may turn into fouls when it’s Jerian Grant or C.J. Fair attacking the rim instead of Prince Williams and Antonio Robinson.
The Pirates also went to a 2-3 zone, which threw the Blue Devils off for a while in the second half. They rushed, taking quick shots and failing to swing the ball. The offense got stagnant, and that allowed ECU to make their run.
Generally speaking, Duke will be fine. They didn’t play well tonight and still managed to pull out the win. This game would have been a different story if Quinn Cook had played better — his 14 points and 10 assists are impressive, but also a bit misleading, as he was 5-for-15 from the floor — and Rasheed Sulaimon had shown up. After scoring 33 points in the first two games of the year, Sulaimon went for nine points on 1-for-8 shooting in the two Preseason NIT games this week.
That small lineup is much less effective when the guards aren’t playing well.
But less effective and ineffective are two different things, and the bottom line is that Duke won and will advance to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals of the Preseason NIT next week.