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As Duke basketball chases championships, Tyrese Proctor helps Blue Devils find best game

Steve Wiseman, The News & Observer on

Published in Basketball

DURHAM, N.C. — Even while racking up enough wins to stay in the nation's top 10 and among the top two teams in the ACC standings, Duke searched all season for a higher level of play.

The Blue Devils (22-6, 14-4 ACC) found it Saturday as they rolled through the ACC's resident defensive bully, posting a 73-48 win over Virginia.

That it came in Duke's first game in March should not be overlooked. That it came in its second game since freshman guard Caleb Foster's foot injury led to Tyrese Proctor's return to the starting lineup is also notable.

That's because the 6-5 Proctor has the skills and experience to be Duke's difference maker as the season's most important games come fast and furious.

"When he's just throwing himself into competing," Duke coach Jon Scheyer said, "there's nobody better, because he's a two-way guard."

Against the Cavaliers, Proctor made six of eight shots to score 15 points while collecting five assists. Defensively, his primary assignment was Isaac McKneely, Virginia's top 3-point shooter. McKneely hit 3 of 11 shots to score 12 points. The only 3-pointer he made in the first half, while Duke built a 40-18 lead, was when Proctor was not guarding him.

 

"He did such a great job on defense," Scheyer said. "On offense, making everybody better around him but still attacking for his."

Rounding into form

This is the type of basketball Duke expected from Proctor when he decided last April to play a second college basketball season before turning professional. At the end of his freshman season, he'd become a lock-down perimeter defender and reliable scorer.

Proctor scored in double figures in nine of Duke's last 11 games last season, including 16 when Tennessee ousted the Blue Devils, 65-52, in the NCAA tournament's second round.

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