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Toledo Rockets vs. Duke Blue Devils: Jahlil Okafor leads Devils to victory over Rockets

Fueled by the outstanding performance of Jahlil Okafor, the Duke Blue Devils kept up their dominant ways in Cameron Indoor Stadium in non-conference play.

Juice Brown helps the Rockets put up a fight but Toledo loses in Durham.
Juice Brown helps the Rockets put up a fight but Toledo loses in Durham.
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Overmatched by a top-tier Duke squad that scored in oodles early, (particularly Jahlil Okafor) Toledo found its offensive footing after falling behind 18-4 early, but the Blue Devils were too much to handle defensively. Duke pulled away in a dominant second half, emerging victorious, 86-69.

Toledo started off 1-8 which contributed to the early Duke onslaught but the Rockets soon fought their way back into the game. Two Nathan Boothe fouls put the big man on the bench, which made it easier for Okafor to have his way down low. Okafor went on to net a career-high 27 points on 12-15 shooting, and added eight rebounds.

A Juice Brown three in which he was off balance and faded to the side brought the Rockets to their feet on the bench, but Jahlil Okafor answered by scoring on three straight possessions, (and hit a free throw) including two emphatic slams in transition that put the home crowd into a frenzy. Okafor's effort alone amounted to a 7-0 run that put Duke up 54-44. The Blue Devils managed to fend off any Toledo runs to keep a consistent double-digit lead for the remainder of the game.

The Rockets made some highlight worthy plays, and kept within striking distance for much of the first half, but couldn't find a way to stop the Devils in the end.

From the beginning, Okafor scored 12 of the Devils' first 22 points, and showed why many have him projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. With a combination of soft tosses off the glass, slams, and easy buckets around the rim, Okafor asserted Duke's inside game early, and helped negate Toledo's presence on the inside offensively. Executing an effective drop step and a series of strong moves around the basket made stopping the future No. 1 draft pick nearly impossible to stop on this night.

Juice Brown picked up some steam after a 1-4 shooting start, and hit his next three shots (on three straight possessions) as he and Quinn Cook dueled back and forth as Brown attempted to keep things close at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The last Brown layup made it a 34-28 game. Brown finished with 19 points and four assists.

The Brown hot streak helped spur a run of eight straight made shots for Toledo that helped the Rockets pull with five at 37-32 before Cook free throws and an Okafor dunk in transition helped to cool the Rockets' run. A Justin Drummond made 3-pointer pulled the Rockets back within six, and Brown hit an off-balance runner as the buzzer sounded in Durham to make it a 41-37 game. But the second half proved much more in the Dukies' favor as Toledo struggled to score in the early going of the second half.

Duke netted 16 more free throws than Toledo (22-30/6-10), and benefited from the solid play of Tyus Jones (15 points) and Quinn Cook (20 points). The Rockets had four players score in double figures, but it just wasn't enough. J.D. Weatherspoon, Justin Drummond, Johnathan Williams, and Brown, combined for 57 of the Rocket's 69 points, while Boothe added on another 9 points.

The Toledo bench was not asked to do much Monday night with the exception of Jordan Lauf who played notable minutes in place of Boothe and added four rebounds. The Rockets, now 7-5 have yet to pick up a signature non-conference victory, but must be eagerly awaiting conference play come Saturday.