Former Duke standout Phil Henderson passes

phil henderson ripDURHAM, N.C. – Former Blue Devil standout Phil Henderson passed away Sunday at his home in the Philippines. Henderson, a senior captain on Duke’s 1990 Final Four team, finished his Duke career with 1,397 points, 330 rebounds, 217 assists and 128 three-point field goals in 115 games.

 

“On behalf of the entire Duke Basketball family, we are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Phil Henderson,” said head coachMike Krzyzewski. “Our hearts go out to his mom and family. Phil was a talented player and a good man with a gentle soul. We will miss him dearly.”

 

As a senior, Henderson led the Blue Devils in scoring at 18.5 points per game while earning second team All-ACC accolades. The University Park, Ill., native was at his best in March, averaging 22.3 points per game in tournament play en route to earning ACC All-Tournament, NCAA All-East Regional and NCAA All-Final Four team honors.

 

Henderson also earned ACC All-Tournament team and All-East Regional team honors in 1989. After scoring 21 points in a tournament win over Minnesota, Henderson netted 23 points in the regional win against Georgetown. He made one of the most memorable plays in Duke history in that contest, when he drove down the lane and dunked over Alonzo Mourning. Henderson started all 36 games as a junior and averaged 12.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.

 

Henderson, a 1990 NBA Draft second round selection by the Dallas Mavericks, went on to play overseas for several years following his Duke career.

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Terps Hold Off Late Duke Rally, Edge Exhausted Blue Devils 83-81

seth curry 1In what was likely the Blue Devils’ last visit to the always lovely and charming College Park, Maryland weathered 26 turnovers and the spectacular shooting of Seth Curry, murdered Duke on the boards, and took advantage of an exhausted Mason Plumlee playing by far his worst game of the year to turn back Duke’s late second half rally and beat the #2 ranked Blue Devils tonight, 83-81.  Barring an absolute collapse by undefeated Miami down the stretch, the loss, Duke’s third in conference, effectively ends Duke’s pursuit of the Hurricanes for the regular season ACC crown.

This was a game that had “danger” written all over it.  Duke was playing its fourth game in the last ten days, its third in the last seven.  Coach K had indicated after the tough win over Carolina on Wednesday night that the team was tired, that game having come on the heels of the difficult travel situation up at Boston College last weekend.  Bringing a physically and, perhaps, mentally tired team on the road to face a Maryland squad desperate for a significant, tournament committee eye-catching win, in front of a rabid home crowd even more jacked up than usual to face Duke for probably the last time at home?  It wasn’t going to be easy.  Combine that with the facts that this Maryland team is huge, they are the best rebounding team in the ACC, and Duke has struggled all year to keep opponents off the boards, and you just had to wonder how in the world Duke was a 5 point favorite to win this game.

Maryland jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but that was the biggest advantage they enjoyed in a see-saw first half that ended with the Terps up a point.   Mason Plumlee had about a two footer roll off the rim on Duke’s second possession — a sign of things to come for the Duke big man.  Mason was thoroughly outplayed all day long by Maryland center Alex Len, who Mason had controlled in the matchup a few weeks ago in Cameron.  But tonight Mason just had no energy, no zip, no legs.  He was not posting up strong, and when he did get the ball his moves were slow and they were weak.  He has been playing heavy, heavy minutes this year out of necessity, especially since Ryan Kelly went down, and with this recent stretch of games, he just ran out of gas.  Now I do think the referees missed a couple of obvious calls against Len in the earlygoing, one on each end, and if those calls had been made, who knows how that would have affected the game, and Mason in particular?  But that’s loser talk.  Len dominated the matchup, as he ended up with 19 points and 9 rebounds, to Plumlee’s season-low 4 points and 3 rebounds.  Mason ended up fouling out as well.

In the first half, Seth Curry absolutely carried the Blue Devils.  He scored Duke’s first two hoops on tough, but very smooth midrange jumpers, scored on a very athletic drive and one hander in the lane, hit several more J’s against hand-in-the-face defense, and ended the half with 14 of Duke’s 34 points.  This despite apparently injuring, or aggravating, a leg injury on one of his drives, where he came up limping and wincing and had to come out for a few minutes.  He came back strong though.  Tough kid.  Quinn Cook also continued his aggressive play at the offensive end, taking seven shots, but he only hit two of them, plus a couple of free throws.  But he was in attack mode.  Maryland was very effective, though, in keeping Duke off the three-point line.  Duke of course gets a lot of its points from beyond the arc, but today in the first half, the Devils only hit one of six, that one by Cook.  The real surprise in the first half, though, was Josh Hairston.  It became obvious very early that the big, bruising Maryland front line was going to be too much for the callow Amile Jefferson to handle.  Just not strong enough.  Coach K had to turn to Hairston, and he responded.  In his best offensive performance of the season, Josh finished on a very nice interior pass from Mason for a layup, converted two free throws, nailed a 15 foot J, and then converted on another pass from Mason for an and-one.  Who was that masked man?  Josh also banged as well as he could with the Maryland big men, despite giving up height and athleticism, like he usually does.

Presbyterian v DukeIn the first four minutes of the second half, Maryland jumped out to an eight point advantage, 49-41, and soon pushed it to 10.  Plumlee picked up two quick fouls in the first two minutes of the half, and Len and Maryland big Shaquille Cleare were going to work inside.  Duke cut it to two, though, continuing to ride Curry.  Included here was a great poke by Seth, resulting in a runout where he ended up with the layup.  It always helps to get easy hoops when you’re trying to make up a deficit. Cook’s three was the shot that cut the lead to two.  The teams reached a stalemate midway through the second half, as there was only one hoop scored over a period of almost three minutes, before Alex Murphy’s steal and driving dunk (!!) cut the lead back to two again.

Maryland was just killing itself with turnovers all day, though.  Just when it seemed that they were going to put Duke away, they would throw the ball away in the backcourt, make a lazy pass and allow Duke an easy steal, or lose their focus and give it away in transition when it was they who should’ve been going in for an easy hoop.  Really bad ballhandling and a real lack of concentration on the part of Maryland.  But though it seemed like Maryland was almost trying to give the game away, Duke just wasn’t good enough today to take it.  The Devils would draw close, then Maryland would move it out again, often by virtue of Duke’s porous defense having to foul to prevent easy buckets.  It was probably a good strategy, really, because when Maryland managed to avoid turning it over and avoid getting fouled by Duke, they shot the ball very well from the field — try 60%.  Maryland kept going to the line as the second half continued.  From the 11 minute mark to the 2 1/2 minute mark, Maryland only made three field goals, but they were able to maintain and stretch their lead by hitting 13 of 17 free throws during that time span.  Here, for Duke, it was Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon keeping them in it offensively.  Rasheed, who had burned Maryland with 25 points a few weeks ago in Durham, got it going in the second half both on jump shots and drives to the bucket drawing fouls, and Quinn continued to hunt his shot as well.  Notably absent from much of the action during this stretch, however, where Duke was hanging on for dear life, were its two senior stars, Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee.  That did not bode well.  Things were going so badly for Mason that he was actually subbed out a number of times in favor of Hairston, despite it resulting in a very small Duke lineup.  More than once it was 6’8″ Alex Murphy, 6’7″ Hairston, plus some combination of guards Sulaimon, Curry, Cook, and Tyler Thornton, against the behemoths from Maryland.  Maybe Coach K thought that the only way we could compete was to go small and try to outrun or outshoot the troglodytes, or maybe it was just that Mason was just really hurting us at both ends, so how could Josh and Alex do any worse?  Every few minutes K would sub Mason out, and then when he would bring him back in, Duke fans would have their hopes raised that “ok, now Mason’s going to get it going.”  But he never did.  No legs.

Things seemed dire when Maryland went up 8 with two minutes to go, but two cold blooded three’s by Curry, sandwiched of course around yet another Maryland turnover, cut the lead to two with a minute to play.  Maryland’s Jake Layman hit one free throw to move the margin to three before Rasheed Sulaimon got himself fouled on a three pointer with 17 seconds to go.  The kid from Houston proved to have ice water in his veins, calmly swishing all three throws to tie the game.  Unfortunately, upon Maryland holding for the last shot, guard Seth Allen got past Cook and into the lane, there was no strong help there, and Quinn fouled him with 2.8 seconds left.  Allen hit the two free throws for the winning margin.

Maryland did some things really well in this game, so you have to hand it to them in that sense.  They shot 60% from the field, and they were very good from the line down the stretch, which is not like them — they were 9th in the ACC in FT% coming into the game.  And they took full advantage of their size advantage and Mason Plumlee’s ineffectivness, as they absolutely dominated the boards, 38-17.  More than doubled us up.  That’s a “wow” stat.  Sulaimon led Duke with four rebounds.  Maryland had five different players with four or more.  And while Duke hit a few more three’s in the second half, Maryland held the Devils to 6 of 19 — that’s 31% — for the night on Duke’s bread and butter.  That, folks, will not get it done.

Duke did not play a good game defensively.  Maryland turned the ball over 26 times and still scored 83 points.  I haven’t looked it up, but I venture to guess that no team in Coach K’s Duke career has ever turned the ball over 26 times and still beaten the Blue Devils.  As discussed above, Len owned Plumlee down low.  It wasn’t only Mason, though, who did a poor job of help defense against penetration tonight.  Nobody did well in that area.  And the perimeter guys let that penetration happen too easily.  Was it fatigue?  Maybe.  But Maryland has exceeded 83 points only four times previously this season, and two of them were against Long Island and Maryland-Eastern Shore.  This was a lot of points for them, and a lot of them resulted from relatively easy shots.  Duke’s defense is not nearly the same without Ryan Kelly — that’s obvious — but we just can’t use that as an excuse anymore.  We have to get better.  We’re not going to have very many easy wins the rest of the way if we don’t stop penetration better and we don’t help better and we don’t block out on the defensive board better.  And if you keep playing close game after close game, and they all go down to the wire, you’re going to lose some of them.  Not the position you want to be in.

I would be remiss, though, if I did not re-emphasize what a heroic effort Seth Curry gave in defeat today.  This guy, as everyone knows, has been playing on a bum leg all season.  The pain is worse when he doesn’t get rest, and is better when he has time between games.  This has been a rough patch of the schedule.  The whole team was tired.  The guy who supposedly can cope the least with games in quick succession is Curry.  Yet he put this team on his back in the first half and kept us in the game.  Add to this the fact that he hurt his leg, again, in that first half, and he still carried the team?  Just amazing.  He ended with 25 points on 11 of 17 shooting.  A lot of them were tough, tough shots, closely defended.  He also played good defense himself, moved his feet well, had two steals, and he was clearly Duke’s leader out there today.  It’s easy to pat guys on the back when we win.  But tonight, in defeat, everyone should acknowledge how lucky we are to have a guy as tough, and who plays with as much heart, as does this young man.

OK, so it’s a two point loss, on the road, against a desperate team, when we were exhausted coming in, and Mason Plumlee played his worst game.  We had a last shot to win the game anyway, despite all the adversity.  Big picture:  not so terrible.  The guys have to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and put it behind them.  Get some rest, and just realize just how tough these road games are in this league, because we have several more coming right up here, starting Thursday night in Blacksburg.

Preview: Duke at Maryland

Ah, Duke’s annual trip to College Park. The energy, the tradition, the post-game riots. With Maryland leaving for the Big 10 the year after next, this might be the very last such trip for Duke, the last installment in the not-our-rivalry.

Sumaimon for 2The often crass and vulgar Terrapin faithful had a lot to cheer about when Maryland won four of six home games against Duke from 2002 to 2007. But Duke has taken four of the last five games in College Park and third year coach Mark Turgeon has yet to beat the Blue Devils. Duke clobbered the Terps 84-64, three weeks ago in Durham.

Since that game on January 26, Maryland has beaten Wake Forest and Virginia Tech and lost to Florida State and Virginia. The Terps’ rotation has looked a bit different lately than it did against Duke, as 6’8″ senior James Padgett has replaced 6’9″ freshman behemoth Shaquille Clear in the starting lineup. Clear started against Duke and played 16 minutes, but in Maryland’s last couple games he’s been the 9th or 10th man, playing only 3 minutes against Virginia Tech on February 7. Also, 6’3″ junior Pe’Shon Howard has appeared to drop to eighth in the rotation (averaging fewer than 14 mpg in the last three games, and now has been suspended and will not play against Duke) after playing 21 minutes in the first Duke/Maryland game. You never know, though. Padgett only played 6 minutes against UVa after averaging 27+ mpg in the three games before that.

With either Padgett or Clear in the lineup, however, Maryland is huge. Led by 7’1 sophomore center Alex Len, the Terps’ starters include 6’8″ freshman Jake Layman, 6’6″ sophomore Nick Faust, and 6’5″ sophomore Dez Wells. Meaning Duke will give up 4 or more inches at all three perimeter spots. The terps go 10 deep, with either Clear or Padgett subbing in the frontcourt, as well as 6’8″ widebody freshman Charles Mitchell, and with Howard, 6’1″ frosh Seth Allen, and 6’3″ graduate student (transfer from Albany) Logan Aronhalt shoring up the perimeter.

Maryland is rated #61 in the country by Pomeroy, #73 in the RPI, and #53 by Sagarin. Pomeroy likes their defense (#50) better than their offense (#96).

As one might guess with all that height and girth, Maryland is the top rebounding team in the ACC, ripping down 42.2 boards a game. Their specialty is offensive rebounding, as their offensive rebounding percentage is tops in the conference. Duke’s defensive rebounding is an area of weakness (9th in the ACC), so this is a critical thing to watch on Saturday. Based on rebounding percentages, Maryland’s top glass cleaners are Mitchell (24.0 def reb %; 16.0 off reb %) and Len (18.4 def reb%; 13.5 off reb %). Padgett and Clear are also more than adequate.

The Terps shoot the ball pretty well overall at 47.2% (tied with Duke for 2nd in the conference), but don’t shoot many threes (their percentage of three point shots out of overall shots is 10th in the conference) and don’t get to the free throw line very much (8th in the conference in free throw rate). When they do launch an outside shot or a freebie, they don’t make so many (8th in the ACC in three-point pct and 9th in FT%). But their biggest weakness is turnovers, where they rate worst in the ACC, coughing up the ball more than 15 times a game. They also rate 2nd to last in the league in getting steals on defense.

In contrast, Duke has the most efficient offense in the ACC. In addition to being tied (with Maryland) for 2nd in the league in overall FG%, the Devils lead the conference in three-point percentage (40.8%) and FT% (71.7%). And Duke exploits its three-point strength, taking the 3rd highest percentage of threes in the conference. Duke’s assist rate is similar to Maryland’s (Maryland is 3rd in the ACC and Duke is 4th), but unlike the Terps Duke takes care of the ball. The Blue Devils’ 1.36 assist to turnover ratio is tops in the league and the team only gives the ball away 11.2 times a game (2nd in the conference).

Maryland has only two double-figure scorers. Dez Wells scores 12.0 points per game, along with 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Len puts in 12.5 ppg and rips down 8.0 rpg, as well as 2.0 blocks. Howard is the Terps’ top assist guy with 4.2 apg.

In the January 26 game at Cameron, Dez Wells scored 13 and nabbed 8 boards, but only managed a single assist against 3 turnovers. Mason Plumlee outscored Alex Len 19 to 8, although Len’s 10 boards topped Mason’s 7. Mason also had 3 assists and only 1 turnover. Nick Faust scored 9, along with 4 rebounds and 3 assists (4 to’s), and Charles Mitchell put up 13 and 7 in only 13 minutes of play.

On Duke’s side, Quinn scored 11, with 5 rebounds and 9 assists against only 2 turnovers. In recent games Quinn has been looking for his own shot and hasn’t been distributing as much, but hopefully he can do both tomorrow. Rasheed Sulaimon had the highest scoring game of his young career against Maryland, netting 25 points on 9 for 13 shooting (6 for 8 from three). Amile Jefferson battled the bigger Terps for 9 rebounds to go with 11 points and 3 blocks.

One side note — there have been some internet reports that Mason Plumlee is nursing a sore ankle but expects to play. Duke hasn’t reported anything about this, so it might just be internet chatter. If Mason’s ankle does hinder him, however, it could be critical, as Duke needs his size and strong play against Maryland’s huge front line.

Another note: Pe’Shon Howard has been suspended and will miss the Duke game.

Ultimately, this game shapes up as a contest of size vs. skills. The Terps’ superior height on the perimeter didn’t bother the Devils’ ballhandling (18 assist against only 4 turnovers) or shooting (52.4% from the field; 50% from three on 11 for 22 long distance shooting) in the last matchup. If Duke can can replicate that success and moderate Maryland’s success on the boards, there’s a pretty good probability of a Blue Devil victory. If Maryland can bother the Duke outside shooters and continue to hammer the offensive boards (17 in the last game out of 43 rebounds overall), they might have a chance at an upset in front of the rabid Maryland fans.

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Post-game: Duke vs. UNC

Duke has now played nine games since Ryan Kelly went down during the Clemson game on January 8. Without Kelly the team has a very different feel, both on offense and defense, but perhaps the most important consequence of Ryan’s absence is our missing his experience. Another Mason dunkWith three senior starters and two junior bench players, Duke during its first 15 games had the look of a veteran team that could adapt to any situation, calm and unruffled, a team that knew how to win and was confident it would do so, regardless of the impediments in its path. Substituting a freshman (Amile Jefferson) for a senior has disturbed that unruffled calm and made Duke vulnerable to stress and the unknown. We’ve seen this multiple times in the past month and once again in last night’s rivalry matchup against North Carolina.

One of Duke’s great strengths year in and year out has been game preparation. Coach K knows how to use practice time effectively, allowing our players to be ready for each game and to know exactly how to anticipate and combat each opponent’s actions. It is perhaps a testament to Duke’s strength, even without Kelly, that most of our recent opponents have felt the need to attempt to undermine that, to force our suddently younger team to deal with things for which it hadn’t prepared. Can’t blame them, though, can we? Because for the most part it’s worked, at least at first.

Game Surprise? Result
1/12, @NCSU Just a few days after Kelly’s injury, the team has precious little time to prepare for life without Ryan Duke looks lost on both sides of the ball and loses by 8
1/17, Ga Tech No real surprises Duke wins convincingly by 16
1/23, @Miami Reggie Johnson goes all Willis Reed on us, throwing our game plan out the window. Duke gets blown away by the Hurricanes, losing by 27
1/26, Maryland No real surprises Duke wins convincingly by 20
1/30, @Wake Forest Wake surprisingly decides to single-cover National POTY candidate Mason Plumlee in an attempt to stop our three point shooting. Duke has trouble adapting, beating an outmanned Wake team by just 5
2/2, @FSU No real surprises Duke wins convincingly by 19
2/7, NCSU No real surprises Duke jumps off to a 20+ point lead before coasting to a 13 pt win
2/10, @BC Snow forces Duke to fly in just hours before the game, severely disrupting Duke’s pre-game routine and preparation. Then BC triple-teams Mason every time he touches the ball. Duke has difficulty adapting and only edges an inferior BC team by 1.
2/13, UNC Roy Williams unveils a new starting lineup for the first time. Duke struggles early, but manages to surge past the Tar Heels by 5.

See the trend here? When the players can work from their game preparation Duke has won handily. When they’ve gone through the stress of being confronted with the unexpected, they’ve struggled. A pattern often seen with inexperience. To Duke’s credit, after a couple stumbles the team has managed to still win its last three such challenges, including yesterday evening’s game against the bad guys from Chapel Hill.

Last night’s Carolina curve was perhaps the least predictable of the lot. Roy Williams had started two bigs and brought PJ Hairston off the bench every single game this season. Just a few days ago he was quoted as saying it would stay that way for the forseeable future. One of his hallmarks at North Carolina has been a determination to always go 10 or 11 deep (this year, 10 UNC players average 10+ minutes a game and an 11th guy averages 8+), no matter how many UNC fans scream at him to shorten his rotation. In anticipation of these trends continuing, Coach K started Josh Hairston alongside Mason Plumlee.

But when UNC’s lineup was announced, lo and behold, it was the 6’6″ PJ Hairston trotting out there, giving Carolina four guards alongside forward James Michael McAdoo. Two minutes later, Amile Jefferson subbed in for Josh Hairston, and twenty five seconds after that UNC had a five point lead.

“They did a good job of kind of throwing us off a little bit in the first half,” senior co-captain Seth Curry said. “We finally found a way to adjust.”

Duke struggled on both offense and defense against UNC’s small lineup, but managed to keep the Heels within shouting distance. The first half seemed like a ping pong match — Duke pulled within three, 9-6, then UNC pulled ahead 17-10; Duke got it back to three again, 17-14, but then Carolina jumped to its largest lead of the game, 28-18; Duke went on a mini-run, capped by a big three by Tyler Thornton, dropping the margin to five (30-25). The half ended with Carolina holding a four point edge, 33 to 29.

The game was marred by foul trouble. Plumlee, Quinn Cook, and Seth Curry all had two at halftime. Plumlee’s first half fouls were both on offense, and he picked up a third foul 28 seconds into the second half. With a minute gone in the half, McAdoo drove in and Plumlee backed away so quickly McAdoo practically airballed the layup in his surprise. A minute and half later, instead of going inside Mason launched a tentative long jumpshot, and Coach K pulled him almost before the shot clanked off the rim, with UNC enjoying a seven point lead, 38-31.

With Mason on the bench, Duke went small to match UNC’s new preferred lineup. Tyler Thornton stepped up again with another huge three with 16:18 to play, and when Seth Curry hit his first three of the game two minutes later, Duke took its first lead of the night, 42-41.

Even after Mason checked back in, Duke stayed small, employing a four guard lineup for much of the second half. Duke finally felt comfortable, and it showed. Three more threes, one by Rasheed Sulaimon and another each from Thornton and Curry, gave Duke its biggest lead of the night, 59-51, with five minutes to play. After Mason Plumlee stuck a short jumper with 3:48 remaining, UNC went into foul mode and Duke held on by scoring its last 12 points from the line on 12 for 12 shooting. PJ Hairston’s meaningless dunk at the buzzer made the final score 73-68.

Plumlee, Sulaimon, Curry, and Cook all ended with four fouls. Josh Hairston had two fouls in nine minutes of play. For UNC, Bullock had four and the other four starters had three each. Ironically, Amile Jefferson and Tyler Thornton, both of whom average almost five fouls per 40 minutes, only got whistled for two each in 20 and 28 minutes of playing time.

Quinn Cook has said Coach K asked him to be more aggressive looking for his own offense, and it showed as Cook scored 18 points and has averaged 16.5 points in his last four games. Unfortunately, the young point guard’s scoring has come at the expense of his facilitating. Against UNC, Cook only managed a season-low two assists against five turnovers, coming on the heels (pun intended) of a three assist, four turnover game against BC. For the game, Duke turned it over 17 times against Carolina, although only six of those came in the second half.

Despite his foul trouble and his looking a bit sluggish at the outset, Mason Plumlee hit his season averages of 18 points and 11 rebounds. Mason went four for four from the line during the end game, and is 33 for 44 (75%) on free throws in his last five games. Amile Jefferson had 8 rebounds in his twenty minutes. Tyler Thornton’s 9 points represented by far his highest total in ACC play (and 3rd highest of the entire season). He also added 3 rebounds as most of our guards rebounded well (Cook chipped in with 6 boards and Curry had 5). Rasheed Sulaimon was the high assist man for either team, with 5, to go along with his 13 points. Seth Curry also scored in double figures, with 11. Cook led both teams with 4 steals.

UNC hammered the offensive boards, coming away with 20, but only managed 18 defensive rebounds as Duke outrebounded the Heels, 39 to 38. PJ Hairston had a career high 23 points to go with 8 rebounds (7 offensive!), a UNC game high 3 assists, as well as 2 blocks and a steal. Reggie Bullock had 15 points and 8 boards, but did most of his damage in the first half, shooting 3 for 3 on threes in the first half but only 1 for 4 from long distance in the second half. Nobody else from UNC did much from the bonusphere, however. PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald, both averaging near 40% from three for the season, shot 1 for 7 and 0 for 2, respectively, from behind the arc.

James Michael McAdoo also amassed most of his stats in the first half, scoring 6 of his 9 overall points and garnering 6 of his 8 overall rebounds in the opening stanza. His four baskets included three dunks and one rebound-putback. He missed all eight of his shots from more than an inch from the basket and shot 1 for 5 from the free throw line. Bullock also shot poorly from the charity stripe (1 for 4), and UNC probably could have used some of those misses. Overall, UNC hit only 13 of 23 freebies (and only 5 of 18 from three-point range), although the rest of the team besides McAdoo and Bullock hit a respectable 11 of 14 free throws.

Rookie point guard Marcus Paige played 30 minutes but only contributed 4 points and 1 assist (plus 5 rebounds). Leslie McDonald scored just 2 points in 20 minutes. 6’10”, 260 pound freshman Joel James sat out the game with an injury, although since he’s 9th on UNC’s team in minutes per game, his absence was probably not a big factor.

Continuing on the theme of surprises, Roy Williams essentially played a six man rotation. Other than McDonald, the four players on the UNC bench combined for just 12 minutes. It will be interesting to see if Coach Williams continues with the small lineup and short rotation. The Tar Heels played better than they have for most of the season, and this might just be the jump start Carolina needs to finish the season strong and make the NCAA tournament.

As for the Blue Devils, the win over their arch-rival brings the #2 team in the country’s record up to 22-2 (9-2 in ACC play), going into Saturday’s contest at Maryland. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see what surprises, if any, Mark Turgeon dreams up.

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About last night … a look back at Duke vs UNC

Duke won its 22nd game of the season by defeating their arch rival North Carolina 73-68 last evening and while it wasn’t the prettiest of games compared to classics past, it was still the kind of affair that was hard-fought and victory earned.

In the first half, UNC knocked Duke back a bit with a departure from their normal strategy by going small and the Tar Heels took a four point lead into the locker room. Their play allowed them to take the Cameron crowd out of the equation but for whatever reason, I never felt the Blue Devils were in major trouble. The team may have seen it differently in that during post game locker room interviews, they were drained.

Mason Plumlee spoke in a raspy low voice, perhaps horse from yelling, Cook looked as if he was about to fall out. There was exuberance but all seem just happy to have come out on the winning team. Emotions. They can take a toll in this kind of game and you add the intangibles of it being another late start, still a bit of jet lag and simply the demands of school can tire even the youngest of men.

Many felt North Carolina gave it their best shot and many felt it would b a blowout loss going in, but history teaches up, almost anything can happen in these games. This has been a rather disjointed version of the Tar H eels this season where chemistry issues abound but they showed a lot of fight and heart last evening but by games in, so did Duke and that enabled them to remain in the regular season hunt in the ACC.

The Blue Devils struggled from the three-point stripe in th first half, hitting just one, but they knocked down five in the second half. Of the six made three pointers, none were bigger than any from Tyler Thornton. Oh, that’s right, he had half of them. Thornton hit the Blue Devils first three pointer and up until that point they were pushing, so seeing that one drop helped their psyches. Thornton was praised in the post game press conference by Kryzyzewski.

“Tyler is just a winner; he is a really tough kid. I like him because he can get angry. I think anger is an emotion that can get you past being tired and gets you past a lot of things.”

Thornton had been a bit quiet in previous games but he picked a grand stage to help lift what Krzyzewski and I alluded to earlier, that this was a tired team. And the Tar Heels are also a deeper team than Duke, especially in Ryan Kellys’ absence. Before I go on, this is where I say that Krzyzewski reiterated that there was no time-table for Kellys’ return and he even made reference to “if,” he returns.

While again, it was not the prettiest of wins on the court, the victory for Duke keeps them at or near the top of standings and rankings They now ride a six game winning streak and have adjusted to life after Kelly, but it is clear that they will need a bit more consistency from their cast to continue th roll with perhaps their last ever trip to Maryland coming up.

The victory over North Carolina allowed Krzyzewski to tie Adolph Rupp for the third most victories at one school and that made me think back on a lot of classic games past. While last evening may not be at the top of my memories list during his 76th birthday bash, wins over your arch rival are always tantalizingly sweet. And if you missed it, last night was Coach K’s 66th birthday and he can never not like the gift of beating Carolina.

The cool thing for Duke fans is that he shared that gift with all of us.

This and That Department

– I watched the replay from the ACC Network which is a fresh alternative to ESPN on occasion and enjoyed the broadcast. Speaking of ESPN, Dick Vitale once again came down to chat it up with the Cameron Crazies but no ride through the crowd this go round.

– National media turned out last and I sat behind Dick “Hoops” Weis or at least until half time where he bailed, perhaps due to the over exuberant Cameron Crazies which sit directly behind, er … on us. Jeff Goodman, Pat Forde and several others were there as well in what is almost a social atmosphere for the rivalry.

– The Cameron Crazies were good, understandably excited and nobody put words in their collective mouths last evening. Sorry, I could not resist. This comment of course is in reference to the accusations of so many who were not at the recent Duke vs NCSU game. To this day, not one single media member attending that game, objective as they are have come forward saying they heard, “the chant.”

– After trailing 38-31, Duke went on a 16-5 run. The Blue Devils went on another 11-4 run featured three Duke three pointers and or half their total of six made attempts.

– Quinn Cook turned the ball over more than usual in the first half but his four steals helped make up for it. Cook has now earned 22 consecutive starts. Cook also teamed with Curry to grab 11 boards from the guard spot.

– Rasheed Sulaimon drew a key charge during the Blue Devils comeback and he nor ranks second on the team with nine total taken on the season. Hairston leads the team and for what it’s worth, the injure Ryan Kelly is often at the top of this category when healthy.

– Duke distributed fliers pushing Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon for season honors. Plumlee is being pushed as an ACC Player of the Year candidate and All American candidate as is Curry. Cook and his stats are being offered up for the All ACC team and Sulaimon as a freshman All American candidate.

– Prospects Theo Pinson and Harry Giles watched the game from behind the Duke bench last evening.