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No. 16 Duke caps nonconference slate vs. Queens

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Duke secured a key result prior to Christmas, and that might make the next stretch of games a tad less stressful for the No. 16 Blue Devils.

They will play their nonconference finale against Queens on Saturday afternoon at Durham, N.C.

In its most recent game, Duke beat then-No. 10 Baylor 78-70 on Dec. 20 in New York, a soothing result for the Blue Devils.

“(It was big) for us to be in some big-time games right away, and we didn’t play our best in a couple of those,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “We didn’t finish in two of them. We went through some stuff together. Those games, I think, more got brought to the light. I give these guys credit for just putting their heads down and working.”

So now with a notable victory on the record, Duke (8-3) can look at building toward even bigger things.

Queens (6-8) also will be in its last nonconference game, taking on a Top 25 opponent for the second game in a row. The Royals lost 109-79 at No. 18 Clemson on Dec. 22.

The backcourt has been crucial for Duke, and the Blue Devils hope that after several weeks on the bench, sophomore guard Tyrese Proctor is ready to return from an injury. In the meantime, much responsibility has been placed on senior guard Jeremy Roach.

“Just being the vet and being in these situations, he never looks rattled,” Scheyer said of Roach.

Roach, who has made at least one 3-point shot in six consecutive games to match the longest stretch in his career, strived to provide more in various areas during the Baylor game.

“We just wanted to kind of prove to ourselves that we can do it,” Roach said. “Obviously, we had three tough losses early in the season and I felt like I didn’t kind of set the tone. I wasn’t leading the right way. I wasn’t doing what I needed to do.”

Freshman guard Jared McCain has led Duke in scoring in two of the past three games, including a 21-point output vs. the Bears. A starter in all 11 games, he is averaging 10.5 points per game.

Bringing back Proctor might mean some adjustments in a backcourt that began to thrive with Roach, McCain and Caleb Foster.

“Learning how to play with each other, playing three guards together is a little bit different, so we’ve had to adjust. I’ve had to adjust,” Scheyer said. “But give these guys all the credit in the world. They’ve done a terrific job, and really, that’s my expectation going forward.”

Blue Devils center Ryan Young topped the 1,000-point mark in his career last week. Of those, 258 have come in his two seasons at Duke after transferring from Northwestern.

Queens will attempt to battle Duke on the glass, as the Royals hold an overall rebounding advantage for the season.

“Rebounding is a huge emphasis on our team,” Royals coach Grant Leonard said. “Rebounding is a huge emphasis on our team, it’s doesn’t matter that we are smaller, we think we’re faster to the ball and more aggressive”

It will be the first meeting between the in-state programs. Queens is in its second season of Division I basketball.

Duke opens Atlantic Coast Conference play at home against Syracuse on Tuesday. Queens kicks off Atlantic Sun action at Kennesaw State on Jan. 6.

–Field Level Media

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