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DURHAM — Duke’s third starting lineup three games into the basketball season resulted in Tuesday’s 105-57 romp over Central Arkansas, but head coach Mike Krzyzewski cautioned not to read too much into the shuffling.
This time the change was starting senior Jack White at power forward in place of freshman Matthew Hurt. White joined sophomore point guard Tre Jones, third start; freshman guard Cassius Stanley, third start; center Vernon Carey, third start; and junior guard Alex O’Connell, second start.
“Questions about the starting lineup with this team are not the same as if you asked me last year or the year before or the year before,” Coach K said. “We’re just looking at different combinations. I thought having a veteran (White) with Vernon could get him off better. Then Matt came in played really well.”
White only scored three points with three rebounds, but those weren’t the numbers Krzyzewski noticed. Carey finished with the team’s first double-double, 17 points and 10 rebounds. Hurt led the Blue Devils with 19 points and four boards.
Coach K may come up with his fourth starting lineup when the No. 2-ranked Blue Devils return to the court against Georgia State (2-1) at Cameron Indoor Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday on the ACC Network.
Or he may indicate how pleased he was with his third lineup.
“We’re looking at different combinations,” he said. “The things that stay consistent are defense. Whenever they come in the game doesn’t really matter. They’re playing the same defense. Offensively they’re in the group they’re in. If they just play hard defensively, we’ll be in good shape. We’ll have a good chance.”
NO. 1 NEXT?
Duke is now poised to ascend to No. 1 in next week’s poll. In the preseason, the Blue Devils were No. 4 behind No. 3 Kansas, No. 2 Kentucky and No. 1 Michigan State. All four teams met in the Champions Classic to open the season, and the results were reflected in the new poll. Kentucky moved to No. 1 after beating Michigan State and Duke to No. 4 after downing Kansas.
And now the poll is due for another shakeup; Kentucky was surprised on Tuesday just a few hours after the Wildcats were newly minted as No. 1. The Wildcats lost to Evansville 67-64 at Rupp Arena.
Against Central Arkansas (1-3) of the Southland Conference, Duke had 11 steals in the first half before taking off the full-court pressure and finishing with 14. The Blue Devils have 37 steals in three games.
“Any team we go up against we want them to know we’re going to play hard, take them out of what they want to do and create transition points,” said White, a team captain. “We’re 10 or 11 deep. Anyone can have a big night. It feels like the whole team is scoring.”
Duke (4-5, 2-3 ACC Coastal) needs two wins in the final three regular-season games for bowl eligibility. The stretch begins against Syracuse (3-6, 0-5 ACC Atlantic) at 4 p.m. Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium.
The next two contests are Nov. 23 at Wake Forest (7-2, 3-2 Atlantic) and Nov. 30 at home against Miami (6-4, 4-3 Coastal).
“We’re trying to go 1-0 this week,” said Duke coach David Cutcliffe, cautioning his players about thinking beyond this week. “Anybody that’s worried about a bowl game won’t be in our locker room.”
However, a 5-7 Duke team will be high among those that can claim a bowl bid if there aren’t enough 6-6 teams to fill bowl slots. That pecking order is based on graduation rates.
Tom Shanahan is freelance writer based in Cary and author of Raye of Light, a book featuring Fayetteville’s Jimmy Raye as a pioneering black quarterback for College Football Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty on Michigan State’s Underground Railroad football teams of the 1960s.