Tag Archives: Duke Basketball

Tough loss, great year, time to carry on

SONY DSCThe Duke Blue Devils season ended on a sour note Sunday evening as the wheels came off in the second half against a determined Louisville team. For the longest time the game was nip and tuck but the Cards put together a 17-2 run and never looked back.

It hurts. Make no mistake about that, a loss one game shy of the final Four hurts. But the Blue Devils had a good season going 30-6 overall and making it to the elite eight in one of the toughest seeds one could imagine in a stacked regional.

Not only that, a mid-season injury to senior Ryan Kelly was a major hindrance to the teams chemistry when they were playing together better than any team in the country before it happened.

Then there was the lack of practice time for Seth Curry who battled severe shin problems and pain and that did not allow for cohesion.

Yes, indeed, Duke battled some issues yet still found a way to win 30 games for the 13th season in school history.

In hindsight, Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff did a miraculous job and pulled off some good wins.

Among those wins was an early season victory over the same Louisville team that defeated them and a Kentucky team which had shot blocker Nerlens Noel that was ranked quite highly at the time.

Other victims included Ohio State, Virginia Commonwealth, Florida Gulf Coast, Minnesota, Temple Miami and that team down the road, known as their arch rival North Carolina? The Blue Devils swept them.

Duke has had more than their share of what could have been seasons, most recently an injury to NBA standout Kyrie Irving, but that’s the way the ball bounces.

By the time you are reading this, a little more pain may have surfaced, knowing it will be several months before Duke takes to the hardwood again. But the disappointment will pass and you will be able to remind yourself that Duke was still pretty darn good.

But when you think back on seniors Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry, try to realize it’s more than what they did on the basketball court that should make you proud.

These kids were good citizens and had character. In fact, the whole team had character and played together.

Sometimes, you get beat by the better team on a given day and that’s what happened to these Blue Devils. And believe me, it is hard to beat a good team twice and Louisville certainly reminded us of that and they should be lauded for the effort.

Duke gets every teams best shot year in and year out. There are no off days, down time or breaks, yet they still put up 30 wins against the nations toughest schedule.

Sometimes you fall short of your goal and at Duke, those goals consistently remain the same, they go for titles.

This team consisted of winners on and off the court and I for one am proud of their collective effort and representing their school, fans and conference in a classy way.

So, remember, Duke Basketball never ends. It is as consistent a program as a fan could hope to pull for and rarely do they have a losing season.

Come Wednesday or so, you will start to turn your attention to the future. You will tune in to the McDonald’s Game to watch Matt Jones launch a few three-point shots. You will talk of prospects Jabari Parker and Semi Ojeleye coming in and you may even take a peak at prospects further down the road in our premium subscription section.

You will also think of the returning players and you will tune into the draft to see how the seniors will fare.

Later in the summer you will likely hang out near the BDN twitter feed to see how the future players look during th N.C. Pro Am in July.

My point is simple. the future is still bright and the past is pretty darn good. So, no sad faces here, for you are a Duke Basketball fan.

Bench key as Blue Devils grind it out over Creighton

Amile JeffersonPHILADELPHIA, PA. - Going into Duke’s round of 32 game against Creighton, the question came up about Duke’s depth. Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s predilection for a short post-season rotation is well known, but did this year’s Duke team have bench players who could step up if needed?

“Yep, we have enough guys,” Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel said. “And we’ve proven that all year. Guys have stepped up and done a good job. You know we had a crisis in the middle of the year when Ryan went out, and not many teams have had a guy that’s that important that’s gone out and that’s missed that many games, and we had guys that stepped up during that time. So if it comes to that, we’ll have guys that are ready to step up and help us.”

Boy, did it come to that. Duke’s Ryan Kelly, who drew the assignment to guard Creighton’s national player-of-the-year candidate Doug McDermott, was whistled for a foul 43 seconds into the contest, a harbinger of things to come.

The game was billed as a matchup of two of the best five offenses in the country. Creighton led the nation in field goal percentage and three-point percentage this season, and was fifth in the country in assists per game (while also coming in tenth in the country in assist to turnover ratio). Pomeroy rated the Blue Jays as the fifth most efficient offense in the land, while Duke ranked third.

“They’re very difficult to guard,” Capel said before the game. “They put a lot of pressure on your defense, with how well they execute, with their talent, and with how well they shoot the ball.”

And the linchpin of that offense was Doug McDermott. Kelly hounded him for eight and half minutes, forcing the Creighton star to miss four of his first five shots, but the Duke forward drew his second foul with 11:29 to play in the first half and took a seat on the bench. Josh Hairston came in to check McDermott but fouled him on his very first possession thereafter. Less than a minute later, Mason Plumlee picked up his second foul.

Kelly checked back in but couldn’t challenge McDermott inside. The Creighton forward began to get hot, hitting three of four shots and adding a couple of free throws. Creighton inched into the lead.

With 3:19 to play in the half, Kelly helped on a driving Austin Chatman and picked up his third foul. Duke fans let out a collective groan. Freshman Amile Jefferson, who gave up 30 pounds to McDermott and who’d played a mere eleven minutes in Duke’s previous three games, came off the bench for Kelly.

“All I wanted to do was come in with tremendous energy and try to use my length,” Jefferson said.

Creighton led, 21 to 20, when Jefferson entered the contest. It looked like Duke would have a challenge just keeping the game close until intermission.

Except that’s not how it worked out. Rasheed Sulaimon hit a key three pointer with 2:47 to go in the half, giving the freshman a Duke-leading ten points and giving Duke a two point lead. McDermott and Seth Curry each hit two free throws, and then Curry stripped McDermott of the ball with 53 seconds remaining in the opening period. Krzyzewski called a timeout.

Instead of milking the clock, Duke went for a “two for one,” attempting a quick score in the hope of getting the last possession of the half. It worked. Sulaimon was fouled on a drive and hit one of two free throws. Jefferson and junior reserve Josh Hairston checked in. Jefferson stuck to McDermott like Gorilla Glue, not allowing him a look at the basket. Creighton’s Jahenns Manigat forced up a prayer three point attempt as the shot clock expired. Hairston ripped down the rebound and outletted to fellow bench player Tyler Thornton, who hit an off-balance three at the buzzer to give Duke a six point lead at the half, 29 to 23.

IMG_0443With Kelly burdened by his three fouls, Duke opened the second period trying Mason Plumlee on McDermott. Plumlee picked up his own third foul just thirty seconds into the half and Kelly had to switch back onto the Creighton foul magnet. The experiment cost Duke dearly when Plumlee made contact with Creighton center Greg Echenique and was whistled for his fourth foul with 17:48 to go and Duke clinging to a 31 to 27 lead.

Hairston re-entered the game but fouled McDermott and Creighton forward Ethan Wragge on consecutive plays. Now Mr. Hairston had four fouls as well. Kelly joined his frontcourt teammates by picking up his fourth with 13:25 to play.

In the meantime, Seth Curry made a great cut and layup to give Duke a nine point edge, 39 to 30, but it certainly didn’t feel secure with Duke’s entire regular frontcourt rotation saddled with four fouls each.

It was time for the reserves to shine.

“Our bench came through for us,” Krzyzewski said afterwards. “Tyler, Josh, and Amile were outstanding contributors for us tonight.”

Krzyzewski went out of his way to praise junior guard Tyler Thornton. “I really can’t say enough about [Thornton] on the defensive end of the court tonight…. I especially thought Tyler helped us defensively in that second half when we were in all the foul trouble, when Amile and Josh were in, he was able to kind of orchestrate us and made the switch on top so McDermott didn’t get it, and then he had to move a little more to get it. Communication was huge for us, and I thought Tyler was outstanding in getting us together and doing that.”

Indeed, Thornton made some big plays, including flying in for an acrobatic steal just seconds after Kelly’s fourth foul and drawing a critical charge on McDermott with 3:20 to play.

But the most unlikely contributions came from Amile Jefferson. He hit his only shot on a snazzy pick and roll play to give Duke a 43 to 32 lead, and then came up with a huge offensive rebound which led to a Curry layup maintaining Duke’s cushion at 45-34. But more importantly he stuck with McDermott to the end, even snuffing one of the Creighton star’s shots with just over nine minutes left in the contest.

“I love playing defense,” Jefferson said afterwards. “And it’s something I’ve been working on in practice. Guarding a wing now, with Ryan back I’ve been able to do a lot of that. And just learning from all these seniors, I’ve been able to get better. It’s been real fun.”

Hairston fouled out on the scramble after Jefferson’s blocked shot, and Plumlee garnered his fifth with 2:45 to play.

But Doug McDermott didn’t hit a field goal after Jefferson checked in, late in the first half.

“He’s such an amazing player, it’s tough,” Jefferson said of McDermott. “He can shoot the ball, he’s great off the dribble, he can post and he has great size. So I just wanted to try to bother him with my length and make him take tough, contested shots.”

And that he did. The Creighton star shot just 4 for 16 for the game (along with 12 free throws) for 21 inefficient points. It was enough to give Duke a 66-50 win and a ticket to the Sweet 16.

“It’s the best defense we’ve played all year,” Krzyzewski said, noting communication is critical in games like this. “It was the best we talked on defense.”

NOTES:

– Rasheed Sulaimon led Duke with 21 points on 5 for 9 shooting (3 for 5 from three), plus 8 for 10 from the line.

– Quinn Cook added 6 assists against 2 turnovers, giving him 17 assists and only 3 turnovers in the Philadelphia pod. That’s an average of 8.5 apg and a 5.7 assist to turnover ratio.

– Seth Curry, playing on an injured leg with a short turnaround, started slowly, hitting only one of his seven first half shots. But he heated up in the second period, shooting 4 for 8 (2 for 5 on threes) in the last twenty minutes. Perhaps more importantly, his leg held up. “I felt great, for the most part,” Curry said.

– Philadelphia native Amile Jefferson enjoyed shining in front of his hometown fans. “I was tremendously excited about [coming home and playing in Philly]. I had my family here, a lot of friends, my AAU coach, my head coach, so it was really fun to be out there and see them cheering me on, once again, like it was back in the old days. So I was really happy about that.”

– Ryan Kelly scored just 1 point, but Coach K praised him for his overall play. “I love that we won and [Ryan] scored one point…. He knows he played a heck of a game.”

– This weekend’s games marked the third time under Coach K that Duke has played NCAA tournament games in Philadelphia and Duke is 6-0 in those games. The two other seasons Duke played in the City of Brotherly Love? That would be 1992 and 2001.

That’s quite a precedent.

Monday Musings – Duke heads down the stretch

duke vs bellarmine 080The week ahead is a big one for Duke Athletics as the Men’s Basketball team takes on N.C. State on Thursday evening in Cameron Indoor Stadium before traveling to Boston College for another road game on Saturday. Meanwhile, there is a little thing happening on Wednesday called football signing day, when players from around the country will seal their college decisions by sending in their official letters of intent.

Rematch looms

It was less than four weeks ago that N.C. State defeated a Ryan Kelly-less Duke team, knocking the Blue Devils from the ranks of the undefeated. Well, Duke will still be without the services of Kelly, but this time it is uncertain as to whether injured N.C. State point guard Lorenzo Brown will be available. The Pack is coming off a last second loss (without Brown) to ACC league leader Miami. They’ll surely feel that their backs against the wall in Cameron, a site which more often than not brings out their best. It should be another tense game and while the Pack will be trying to right the ship, it is almost a must-win situation for Duke if they want to remain in the chase for the ACC regular season title. The Pack matches up better with Duke than do most conference teams, in that they have a solid one-two punch in the front court of C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell — who is perhaps the most underappreciated star in the league. After Miami, it is a crowded ACC race, and the winner of this game will have a big leg up moving forward.

Speaking of Ryan Kelly

You have heard the old phrase “if I had a dime for every time ….”  Well, if I had a dime for every time somebody asked me about when Kelly would return, I would have a hundred dollar bill. Ask ten people and you’ll get ten different answers.  As always, unfounded rumors abound on the web, as fans desperate for information increasingly believe just about anything they read, without bothering to check out the source’s credentials. I can tell you that Kelly is getting closer to a return, and awhile back I told our members, “Think Boston College.”  Duke plays the Eagles this Saturday and again on February 24th and I feel Kelly will be back within that time frame. Anyhow, nobody is going to rush Kelly back.  Once they get him back, the team needs him to remain on the court for the duration of the season, without relapses or setbacks. It’s hard enough for a team to adjust its chemistry, its roles, and its rotations even once in mid-season.  Two or three times?  Much, much more difficult.

Duke will continue to hover …

…. in the top five of the latest A.P. poll due out just after noon today. I’m not expecting a lot of movement in the polls where Duke is currently ranked fifth in the country, but fourth is not out of the question with Kansas losing. I think Michigan will not fall very far at all after their loss at Indiana. N.C. State will likely be just holding on to a spot in the polls, again, making them hungry to show the nation they can be consistent.

And just like that ….

There are only ten regular season games left on the schedule for Duke. Maybe it’s the fact I am getting old, but man, has this season flown by. And Duke of course gets arch-rival North Carolina twice in those final ten games, on February 13th in Cameron and March 9th in Chapel Hill. This stretch of the season should prove more than a little interesting.  And how many have March 2nd circled on their calendars, when Miami comes to town?

Seniors have just five more home games

Wow. There are just five more home games for Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly in the Duke uniform. I hope all the Crazies will give them a phenomenal send-off. I get to know the quality of the young men while covering the recruiting trail, and these are three really good guys. It’ll be time to reflect soon enough.

Football Signing Day

Our members know that our football recruiting information is second to none on the web, and we’ll certainly be in place when David Cutcliffe and company start to receive prospects’ letters of intent. Look for BDN’s Patrick Cacchio to have lots of great information and insights, and check back into our archives to read about the prospects who hope to continue to build Duke Football into a consistent winner.

A little bit about the site

We’ve been in the process of rethinking Blue Devil Nation a bit.  We’ve been slow to move on some of the changes, but you will see them moving forward. We’ll be introducing a couple of new writers who have the qualities we have been looking for, and recruiting is about to heat up around here again in a big way. After fielding several inquiries to join a group or network, we’ve decided to remain an independent site. That means we have to work a little harder. It may take until the off-season to get some things in place, but the goal is to continue to serve the Blue Devil Nation with solid, dependable information and full beat coverage.  We have assembled a team of what we consider to be true experts in recruiting and coverage, and that should become even more evident as we move forward.

NCAA BASKETBALL: FEB 09 North Carolina at Duke

BDN’s Duke Basketball Notebook

New polls have Duke #3 in the Nation

The new polls came out this afternoon and while it was inevitable they would fall from the top spot with the loss to N.C. State, the Blue Devils still have a lot of respect amongst voters.  Duke still received 14 first place votes, and is rated #3 in the nation. Louisville, a team Duke beat earlier in the year, climbed to the top spot, while N.C. State vaulted to #14. Duke is 3-1 against teams currently in the top 25.  With the weekend loss, Duke is now 213-32 in games played as the #1 team in the land.

A needed break

Duke will next take to the hardwood on Thursday evening against Georgia Tech in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It is never a bad thing for a team to have several days rest after a loss, especially the first loss, which can shake a team’s confidence. Duke will undoubtedly work on their transition defense and study film to see where they can get better as they adjust their line up with Ryan Kelly’s absence. Duke will get another six-day break after the Georgia Tech game before having to travel to Miami on January 23rd in what will be another stiff ACC road challenge. Duke will play three of their next five ACC contests on the road, so needless to say this will be an important stretch for the team.

Ryan Kelly injury

Seth Davis stated the other day that Ryan Kelly could be out for the season. Maybe so, but I wouldn’t read too much into his comment. Most unsubstantiated rumors have said it’ll be 2.5 to 4 weeks, but the reality of the situation is that it will be kept quiet. This is not an uncommon thing because teams do not want to allow their opposition to prepare differently, so sometimes what you are hearing is a form of disinformation. The bottom line is nobody will leak anything on this one, so it is best to just assume Kelly will be out for an extended period of time. While we often deal with what is termed inside information, we stop short of sharng anything we might learn if it could be remotely considered detrimental to the team; additionally, in my opinion they deserve some privacy. We all clearly wish for a return to the court for Ryan Kelly and continue to wish him the best in his recovery.

Silver lining of sorts

While the immediate impact from Ryan Kelly’s injury is not positive for a team that had perfect chemistry, the long-term effect could be the development of some additional players. Duke needs players to step up right now and Amile Jefferson did just that against the Wolfpack. While Jefferson may not be physically ready for the ACC grind, he plays smart and has length and he grabbed hold of the opportunity afforded him vs N.C. State, posting 10 points. On the other hand, Duke got three minutes each from Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee, and their box scores read zeros across the board. Trust me when I say this: these brief minutes are looked at for production, and for either player to play more, those minutes, no matter how brief, need to show something positive in the box score. Josh Hairston played a career-high minutes and played well as a starter, his third such opportunity in his Duke career.

Sulaimon slumping on the offensive end

Surely you have heard the phrase “Hitting the freshman wall,” and it is real. Adjusting to the speed and frequency of the games at the college level is a difficult thing.  Throw schoolwork into the equation — and we all know you have to attend class at Duke — and it can be a lot to handle.  Rasheed Sulaiumon has connected on just 9 of his last 40 shots in his last four games, including 0-10 against the Wolfpack on Saturday. In the four games prior to the last four, Sulaimon went 25 of 50 from he field, which is more of what the Blue Devils need from him. Hopefully, he can find that rhythm to his game again — and fast – as Duke needs its scorers to score. Sulaimon likely needs to just re-discover his feel for the speed of the game on the offensive end, where he can be aggressive but not playing as if expecting contact. I fully expect he will find that game flow, and Duke fans will be happy when that happens.