By Ken Cross
Duke’s Jayson Tatum might now win National Player of the Year, but it is very clear that this is Tatum’s team. He finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds in the Blue Devils’ 87-65 win over Troy on Friday evening in round one of the East Regional. Tatum is a matchup nightmare because of his length, size, and ball skills. Tatum also had nine defensive boards, four steals, and four blocks as he was filling out his line on the box score in amazing fashion.
“Guys weren’t talking on the defensive end,” said Tatum, “And we really paid attention to that in the second half, guys were talking. And I was just fortunate enough to come up with some loose balls.
Mike Krzyzewski took advantage of Tatum’s size as he played literally all five positions. He was a tough cover for Troy as he went to the line 10 times, making seven and then blocking five shots on the defensive end.
“We all played great on the defensive end,” said Tatum, “Not early but towards the second half. We were just talking more. That’s what Coach emphasized the first half.”
And they’re off…
Duke set the tone right from the tip as they turned up their defense, set up for the 3-ball and took a 16-4 lead with 15:22 to play. Four different Blue Devils added a three in their start. They were able to get penetration off the point and set up Frank Jackson, Luke Kennard, Matt Jones, and then Tatum. By the 11 minute mark they had seven and a 29-15 advantage.
“I thought we had good energy,” said Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, “I thought we started great. We’ve done some things in the week in between to get our guys rested and they prepared well. They warmed up well.”