Duke’s Scheyer, Nova’s Neptune nab debut wins

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  • Graduate of University of Delaware.

The new eras at Duke and Villanova started in a familiar way to their previous iterations: with a win.

Jon Scheyer and Kyle Neptune both earned victories in their first games replacing Mike Krzyzewski and Jay Wright, respectively. No. 7 Duke knocked off Jacksonville, 71-44, while No. 16 Villanova cruised past La Salle for an 81-68 victory.

“I just took a moment before going out there,” Scheyer told reporters after the game. “What a moment to be in this position.”

Scheyer, who played under Krzyzewski before joining his staff as an assistant coach, was named Krzyzewski’s replacement in the spring of 2021. He served as the coach-in-waiting last season, and officially took the reins from his predecessor this season after 42 years on the sideline.

Duke, which was without elite freshmen Dereck Lively and Dariq Whitehead due to injury, got off to a slow start, leading by just three late in the first half. But the Blue Devils finished the half on a 16-2 run, sparked by freshman Mark Mitchell and veteran point guard Jeremy Roach. An 11-0 run early in the second half put the game out of reach.

Mitchell led the way with 18 points, while fellow freshman Kyle Filipowski had 10 points and 12 rebounds. Roach, after contributing as a role player for most of his first two seasons in Durham, seemed to relish his expanded role, finishing with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

Unlike Scheyer, Neptune had some head-coaching experience before Monday. After eight seasons as an assistant under Wright at Villanova, he spent last season as Fordham’s head coach, leading the Rams to a surprising 16-16 campaign.

When Wright stunned the college basketball world last April and announced his retirement, Neptune was quickly appointed his replacement.

Villanova was also hampered by injuries, with All-Big East guard Justin Moore out for an extended period of time and star freshman Cameron Whitmore day-to-day after injuring his right thumb in early October. But the Wildcats kept Big 5 rival La Salle at an arm’s length for most of Monday, leading by double-figures for the final 30 minutes.

Holdovers Caleb Daniels (24 points, 10 rebounds) and Eric Dixon (20 points) were the anchors, while Brandon Slater and Jordan Longino finished with 12 points apiece.

“I get all the hype. First game. Big 5 game,” Neptune told reporters. “All that stuff. All we think about is playing and coaching for each other. When you do that and think that way, there’s nothing to be nervous about.”

Wright was in the building Monday night, and he saw a familiar brand of basketball. Villanova shot 65% from 3-point range on 20 attempts, dishing out 13 assists on 29 field goals.

“I was really proud of our team,” Neptune said after the game. “We’re trying to figure it out also with a bunch of new guys, guys hurt. To our guys’ credit, I thought by the end, we were playing Villanova basketball.”

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