ORLANDO, Fla. — Dereck Lively II scored only four points, but the talented freshman produced a record-setting performance on Thursday to help the fifth-seeded Duke Blue Devils knock off No. 12 Oral Roberts in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Lively also hauled in 12 rebounds and blocked six shots, including four in the first half, as Duke posted a dominating 74-51 victory. His six blocked shots are the most ever by a Duke freshman in the tournament, surpassing the previous mark of four (Josh McRoberts, Jayson Tatum). He also became just the third player from the ACC to record at least 10 rebounds and six blocks in a debut.
The Blue Devils raced out to a 15-0 lead to start the game, thanks in large part to their stout defensive effort. The Golden Eagles missed their first 12 shots of the game and were blocked twice by Lively during that time. They finally got on the board with a layup after eight minutes.
Duke coach Jon Scheyer was pleased with their defensive effort.
We were able to switch a lot. We have a very versatile defensive group. (Dereck) having six blocks, which I think is a freshman record in the tournament at Duke. Besides the six blocks, he alters so much. We were able to guard multiple positions, and not let up. To hold that team to 51 points is a big deal.
Lively and the Blue Devils held the Golden Eagles to a season-low 23 points in the first half. They swarmed Oral Roberts at every opportunity on defense and forced players into difficult shots at the rim with Lively roaming the paint.
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 17, 2023
The effort by Lively continued a strong second-half campaign.
The 7-foot-1 center was named to the ACC All-Defensive Team and the ACC All-Freshman Team after averaging 5.4 points, five rebounds and 2.3 blocks on 65.8% shooting from the field. He blocked the third-most shots ever by a Duke freshman (74) and was 12th in the country. He also had the eighth-most games with multiple blocks (22) and has reached that mark in 10 straight games.
He missed time to begin the year, but Scheyer loves his recent run.
The second half of the season, Dereck has been on an absolute tear. His rebounding, blocking shots; he has been scoring in double digits, too. He is the ultimate team player. … I don’t even think the six blocks get enough credit because there were a few more where they were either looking or passing out just because of his presence around the basket.
Defending at a high level is something Lively takes great pride in.
I just accepted it as my role being able to protect the house. Backing up my teammates is just something I’ve accepted and just something I’ve tried to excel at. Being able to have them know they can trust me to have their backs at any moment is something I’ve just accepted throughout this point.
Dereck Lively was a monster for Duke defensively. He showed the ability to both switch out on the perimeter and protect the basket. He finished with 12 rebounds and was credited with 6 blocks. pic.twitter.com/wqLTTa5OfC
— V̷a̷t̷o̷r̷ (@Vator_H_Town) March 17, 2023
Lively is widely considered to be perhaps the top shot-blocker in the NBA draft this year. He has improved his draft stock after a slow start to the year and is now considered by many to be a mid-first-round pick given his recent run.
He certainly didn’t hurt his stock any on Thursday.