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in win against la salle, no. 9 duke men's basketball's filipowski, proctor, mitchell showcase sophomore chemistry

kyle filipowski lays the ball in during duke's tuesday win against la salle.
kyle filipowski lays the ball in during duke's tuesday win against la salle.

one of the reasons duke was projected to have a special season this year was its wealth of returning talent. particularly, three likely nba draft picks — tyrese proctor, kyle filipowski and mark mitchell — all decided to come back for their sophomore campaigns. 

while each of them have played well this season, in the blue devils’ 95-66 victory against la salle tuesday evening, all three had elite performances, showcasing their offensive roles and blending seamlessly in a superb display of chemistry and efficiency. 

the first half was the mitchell and proctor show as filipowski struggled with foul trouble. mitchell used his height advantage over his matchup — 6-foot-4 guard anwar gill — and was aggressive from the tip, driving to the basket and scoring six paint points within the first seven minutes of action. while his shot is still a work-in-progress, his ability as a slasher is key to this offense, and he has a knack for drawing fouls inside.

“i think i was just taking what the defense was giving me,” mitchell said. “we were bigger than them, and i knew that, and i was just trying to go up strong to the basket.”

in addition, the kansas city, kan., native was a force on the glass, securing three offensive rebounds for the team which led to important second-chance opportunities, one of which was a kick-out to proctor for a key triple. 

“i thought mark had his best game,” head coach jon scheyer said. “mark was just really efficient, attacking the basket and with three offensive rebounds.” 

proctor led all scorers in the first half with 14 points, and he was a key facilitator and scorer from both behind the arc and in the paint, using his height to score on smaller explorer defenders. his impressive ball handling and length were on display with his moves to create space and acrobatic finishes around the rim, making him an extremely tough weapon to slow down. 

“tyrese was terrific tonight. it was his best game he's played this year, maybe period,” scheyer said. “he was still aggressive to score at the same time, and then he's defending like crazy on the other end.”

when filipowski returned for the second half, he completely flipped a switch. he had duke’s first eight points of the half and continued to look for his shot. this is when the chemistry between proctor and filipowski took full display, as the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop game with the two was lethal. 

“the thing we're doing a better job of now is moving without the ball,” scheyer said. “ so it's opening some stuff up when [proctor and filipowski] have their two-man game where it's open.”

“i think me and [filipowski] have good chemistry and it has taken time, but it's building, and i think when we're in the open ball screen, no one really can guard it,” proctor said. 

there were some crucial plays in the second half that demonstrated how unguardable the two are when playing in sync. with 12:54 remaining in the game, filipowski popped to the top of the key after setting a screen for proctor, and the center found himself with a wide-open 3-pointer off a dime from his australian teammate.  

“[filipowski] more than anybody needs to read what the defense has given him,” scheyer said. “and so tonight, pick-and-pops were there … he's a heck of a shooter.”

when la salle switched to a match-up zone, the blue devils were able to easily feast, as the tandem screened against the zone. this time, filipowski rolled to the open high post and dished it to freshman forward sean stewart for an energetic slam. 

“[filipowski is] so good being a 7-footer that i trust him with the ball, he trusts me with the ball,” proctor said. “so just feeding off one another is really good for us.”

the sophomore duo continued to find each other throughout the game, stretching out the zone and scoring on the man-to-man defense with the pick-and-roll. scheyer compared their game to the nba champion denver nuggets, who have an elite duo of their own in jamal murray and nikola jokic. 

“the more [filipowski and proctor] are together, the better that i feel,” scheyer said. “you see jamal murray and [nikola] jokic playing together and the chemistry that they have and we try to take a little bit out of their playbook with how they can play together.”

the blue devils were able to widen the lead in the second half, as the crisp ball movement of these players led to open shots. duke struggled to score from behind the arc in the first half, only going 2-for-9, but when filipowski started connecting from deep, it not only increased his confidence, but his teammates’ shots started to fall as well. 

meanwhile, proctor has fully embraced his role as the lead ball-handler, as he has 14 combined assists and no turnovers in the last three games, including four dimes against the explorers. he provides a steadying presence to an offense that often faces pressure, and even when shots aren’t going in, he is able to both create his own or find his teammates for open looks. 

it is certainly rare for a program of duke’s caliber to have the level of returning production that it does. and if the blue devils continue to play together and understand their roles the way they did saturday, they can create a truly well-oiled offensive machine that will be hard to stop. 

ranjan jindal profile
ranjan jindal | assistant blue zone editor

ranjan jindal is a trinity sophomore and an assistant blue zone editor of 世界杯欧洲杯小组赛 's 119th volume.


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