Duke remained in the hunt for the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season championship by defeating a pesky Florida State team 84-81 in their last home game of the 2008-09 season.
Once again, Gerald Henderson stepped up big during a key stretch to help his team win. With Florida State up 76-74 after a Toney Douglas three point shot, "G" drained a three point shot from the corner with 1:41 left in the game to give Duke a one point lead.
After a Toney Douglass miss, Henderson drove into the lane, drew the foul and hit two free throws with 57 ticks left on the clock.
Down three, Douglas missed a three on the other end. Henderson grabbed a long rebound, drove the length of the court ahead of the Noles defense and hit a layup while fouled.
Henderson hit the free throw giving Duke a five point lead with 29 seconds left. Duke rode out the final seconds for a 84-81 win, pushing their conference record to 11-4 setting up the regular season championship game against rival North Carolina in Chapel Hill this coming Sunday.
Florida State was scorching hot from the field, hitting 47.1% of their three point attempts and 50% from the field. Toney Douglas lead all scorers with 27 points to go with his 7 assists. The Noles also got double-doubles from Uche Echefu and Soloman Alabi.
After going into half time trailing 40-34, the Blue Devils erupted for 50 second half points, lead by Henderson with 21 points, 10 rebounds and a team high 5 assists. Kyle Singler had a good game as well scoring 20 points to go with 7 rebounds.
The Blue Devils had to go to their bench early in this game, with Lance Thomas going to the sidelines with a high ankle sprain in less than a minute of play. The Dukies were already playing without Nolan Smith who suffered a concussion and missed his second consecutive game.
The Duke bench responded by outscoring the visitors bench 33-9. Of course, Duke started seniors Marty Pocius, Dave McClure and Greg Paulus. Still, the continued solid play of Elliot Williams provided Duke with some spark. Williams ended the game with 14 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
The most telling stat is one which has become a mainstay of late. Duke committed just 7 turnovers, half that of their opponent. Duke was able to hang on the boards with a tall Florida State team as well as grabbing 36 rebounds to Noles 39.
In a game that had the Cameron Crazies nervous for a good while, Duke protected their turf to go 16-0 in Cameron for the season, tying the 90-91 team for the most wins without a loss in a season.
Duke has now won 256 games in the decade, which is more than any other college program in America. And to think, many media types want to tell you Duke is down.
Another interesting note is that Duke is 11-1 when scoring 80 points or more, with the only loss being to, you guessed it, the team eight miles down the road who they'll play on Sunday.
Krzyzewski's emotion - Coach K continued his emotion of late, encouraging the crowd to chant and firing up his team. The entire Duke staff looked as if they would run to the scorers table at any minute to go in. The upper deck stood on several occasions where emotions were running high. Some were flipping their hats around in rally cap mode, others were screaming in a way that is only appropriate for the team they love. It was nice to see how so many fans ride right along with the team, grimacing or becoming elated on every little thing. Anyhow, make no mistake that the staff's emotion has been critical during the stretch run.
Seniors say their farewells - Duke honored Greg Paulus, Dave McClure and Marty Pocius before and after the game. For the first time in four years, the seniors came back on the court after a win to give their emotional farewells. It was a night when one could see Cameron Crazies linger after the game, taking pictures to preserve memories of their four years. A look around showed one cheerleader sitting on the baseline by herself reflecting on all that she had seen. Another cheerleader was visibly emotional, fighting back tears as if to say, this has been great and I don't want to leave. In the end, all worked out well and the team sent the seniors off in style. It is worth noting that Nolan Smith, always the clown, had a box of tissues in his hand. There were plenty of hugs and lots of smiles for all. It's hard to believe that the next home game is about eight months away. BDN will have more on the game later, including a photo gallery if all works out. So, please check back in.
A quibble- It seems that many season ticket holders have sold their tickets to brokers and some of the locals are not too happy about it. There have been several sections where opponents have sat near the faithful all season long. Many season ticket holders have voiced their displeasure. Not sure what can be done, but I am thankful I don't have to sit beside the more hostile fans as some do. I understand fans from other schools want to come in, but generally they are confined to being behind the visitors bench. The fact that some season ticket holders don't make sure a homer is in their seats will continue to be a problem if nothing is done.
It was just over a week ago that many were writing the Blue Devils off after a road loss to Boston College. Duke defeated a game Virginia Tech team 72-65 on Saturday to win their fourth consecutive game and in the process pushed their record to 24-5 overall and 10-4 in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference. Here are some thoughts from the game and the future -
Coach K and his staff were emotional throughout the contest - Yes, Krzyzewski raised his chair before setting it down during one timeout. While that may have seemed unusual, his intent was to get his teams attention. Krzyzewski was at his best and his intensity has picked up of late, but he at no time lost his composure. In fact the staff was intense, each one pushing the right buttons at the right time and each one knowing their role. This years team is one that needs that extra push for intensity and they have adjusted to that need. I can see tremendous growth in first year coach Nate James work as well. James tutoring of freshman Elliot Williams is worth noting.
Duke was cool under pressure-Once again Duke committed just nine
turnovers and the team effectively took the Hokie Nation out of the game after they made a comeback to tie the contest late in the second half. At no time did Duke look shaken. In fact, they looked like a team that was all business even when the game took a turn.
Coach K's move to get Singler involved -Coach Krzyzewski knew that it would be tough to win the game without getting his star Kyle Singler involved. Singler had just two points at the half and Duke ran a clear out for him at the start of the second half. Singler was fouled on the play and from that point on he was a go to guy in the game and finished with 21 points. With Henderson held somewhat in check after the half, Singler was the glue as the game entered crunch time.
Gerald Henderson is on fire - Henderson has flat out been hard to stop down the stretch. He's throwing down authoritative dunks with ease and knocking down his outside shots making him an opposing coaches nightmare in how to stop him. Henderson put the Devils on his back in the first half and no player in the ACC is playing better down the stretch towards the ACC Tournament. Henderson's most impressive stat, IMO, was his 6 assists.
Elliot Williams has become a mainstay -Williams scored just 7 points but hit a key three pointer to put Duke ahead ten. The freshman logged 33 minutes and played solid defense.
Steady as she goes- Jon Scheyer has been a hit at the point guard spot. He had just one assist and threw two turnovers, but that's not bad for a game high 39 minutes of play for the Blue Devils. What I mean is that he is protecting the ball. Scheyer was 4 of 8 from the three point stripe and his free throws helped seal the win.
Dave McClure -This seniors contributions are heard to measure in the box score. McClure is adding some toughness and it's obvious he knows his role in the system. He had 4 rebounds, many coming at very key moments in the contest.
Hokie Nation- Virginia Tech students filled Cassell Coliseum like a wall of fans which was impressive. The crowd was loud and a bit more tame than I expected them to be. With the exception of the usual flings towards Paulus, they behaved. Still, hearing the reaction of some fans and watching Seth Greenberg melt down is proof they don't foul in their minds. It should be noted that Set seemed to apologize for fan reactions to Greg Paulus at games end.
Speaking of fouls - The Blue Devils played the driving lanes beautifully taking multiple charges.
Hats off to Vassalio - A.D. tried to put his team on his back and found many driving lanes for dunks in the Duke defense. But it was his three point shooting which made the game close after Duke had gained a double digit lead.
It didn't help that - The Blue Devils contained Malcolm Delaney holding him to 2 of 12 from the field. Despite his cold shooting, Delaney had a game high 8 assists. Many of those came in that he could not get a clean shot off.
Don't look now but -I told some folks that Duke could win the ACC outright if they won their last three games. Well, now that they won a tough game in Blacksburg, everyone is talking about that. Still, do not look for Duke to look ahead to Carolina game with Florida State coming in on Tuesday.
At least it's ... -Senior Day on Tuesday and that should help with added emotion. Duke fans should salute Greg Paulus and Dave McClure for their accomplishments. A Florida State win would jumble the standings and this is pretty much a must win for Duke with concerns to momentum and ACC Tournament seeding. I think we all know that winning in Chapel Hill on Senior Day will take and extra ordinary effort. Still, you think Krzyzewski will have his team ready with a championship on the line? Okay, first things first for Duke and that means taking out a Florida State team - a program which ruined JJ Redick and Shelden Williams Senior Day.
It's hard to believe -that the season is winding down and there is but a single home game left. It's an exciting time and the lineup changes has made for an interesting finish. At the moment, Duke is not stumbling down the stretch like last season. Anyhow, the ACC Tournament is around the corner and it has the makings for the best one in years. Then there is the NCAA seeding and the "real" season begins. It'll be fun!
The Duke Blue Devils defeated Maryland 78-67 to move into sole possession of second place in the rough and tumble Atlantic Coast Conference. The pesky Terps played the Blue Devils even most of the game, but after the score was tied at 60 apiece, Duke made key plays to go up 66-60 and never looked back. They outscored the Terps 18-7 down the stretch.
"We knew what was at stake. You have desperate teams. You have a Virginia Tech team that won at Clemson tonight and Maryland beat the best team in our conference in North Carolina. We knew they were an entirely different team now," said Krzyzewski.
It was a workmanlike victory for the Devils who never showed signs of losing their composure despite the usual hostile home crowd. Duke was also able to take
Grevies Vasquez out of the game by taking several charges. Vasquez ended the game with just 10 points coming off his signature performance of 35 points and double figure assists and rebounds in their upset win over North Carolina.
Gerald Henderson continued his torrid pace, putting the team on his back during key stretches. Henderson who has been one of the most consistent players in the country of late ended the game with 19 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 blocks.
Freshman Elliot Williams made some huge plays, be it grabbing key boards or getting to a loose ball. Williams, who has now started three consecutive games, tallied a career high 15 points and grabbed 6 rebounds."We were struggling to stop them on the offensive end defensively, but we put it together in the last minutes of the second half and came out with a win," said Williams.
"One of the things I try to use to help the team out is my athleticism. That was a play where I just tried to get the rebound and I got it, pumped faked and went up as quick as I could," said Williams when asked of a key rebound and stick back in traffic.
"I thought a couple of the plays Elliot made to get a loose ball and a bucket a couple of times was huge. He made the pass of the game - the extra pass to Jon for the three. You could see with that three that the look in their (Maryland) faces changed," said Krzyzewski.
Kyle Singler also chipped in with double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. Jon Scheyer also scored in double figures with 12 points.
Duke has protected the ball well in their 3 game winning streak and ended the night with just nine turnovers. Duke also outrebounded the Terps 39-28.
It was a solid victory for the Blue Devils who move to 9-4 i n the ACC and 23-5 overall. Duke will now travel to another hostile environment in Blacksburg, Virginia to take on a Virginia Tech team that gained a huge road win over Clemson.
Notes- Nolan had a mild concussion and some chest pain. Duke expects him to be okay but they are taking precaustions. Smith ran into a nasty pick from Maryland's Neal.
From GoDuke.com - A Winning Tradition
• Duke has now won 1,870 games all-time, the fourth-highest victory total in NCAA history. The Blue Devils have an all-time record of 1,870-814, including 753-213 under Coach K.
• The Blue Devils have won 284 games this decade, the most wins in a decade by the program. The win total is the second most by a team in NCAA history behind Kansas (286-60 from 1990-99).
• Duke is now 929-237 all-time as a ranked team, including 787-180 as a Top 10 team.
• The Blue Devils have won 20 or more games 44 times in school history with 24 of those coming under Coach K. Duke has won at least 23 of the first 28 games a total of 20 times.
• Duke claimed its ninth ACC win of the year. They have an 845-478 all-time record against current ACC schools, including a 277-247 mark on the road. They have now won nine games in conference play in 12 of the last 13 seasons and in 21 of the 29 years under Coach K.
Duke vs. Maryland Series
• Duke and Maryland met for the 165th time on Wednesday with the Blue Devils now holding a 105-60 lead in the all-time series.
• The Blue Devils are now 4-3 when playing in the Comcast Center and 30-24 when playing in College Park.
• Coach K is 46-20 all-time against Maryland. He has a 17-8 ledger in the month of February.
• Duke has been ranked in each of the last 30 games they have played against Maryland and 54 times overall in the series. They have been ranked in the top 10 in 46 games.
Duke In The ACC
• Duke now owns a 518-277 all-time record in ACC regular season games since the inception of the league in 1953-54.
• Duke has an 845-478 record against schools currently in the Atlantic Coast Conference, including a 278-247 record at home.
• Coach K owns a 343-147 record against schools currently in the ACC.
Duke In February
• Duke improves to 5-3 in the month of February in 2008-09. Under Coach K, the Blue Devils have a 170-66 all-time record in the month of February.
• When playing on Feb. 25, Duke is now 16-11 all-time, including a 6-2 record under Coach K.
Krzyzewski Climbs Victory Ladder
• Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski earned his 826th victory as a head coach on Saturday. He ranks fifth all-time in NCAA Division I history for career victories and is first among active coaches.
• Krzyzewski is now four victories shy of Jim Phelan for fourth all-time.
• Coach K now has 753 wins as the head coach at Duke, ranking him sixth in NCAA Division I history for victories at one school and second among active coaches (Jim Boeheim, Syracuse – 791). Krzyzewski is six wins shy of Western Kentucky’s Ed Diddle for fifth all-time.
• Krzyzewski’s 826 victories are the second most by a head coach through 34 years of coaching. Only Dean Smith of North Carolina won more games with 830 victories.
1,000 Career Points
• Duke has 58 players in school history who have scored over 1,000 career points, giving the Blue Devils the third most 1,000-point scorers of any school in Division I behind North Carolina (62) and Louisville (59).
• Duke has three current players who have scored at least 1,000 points in their career. Jon Scheyer ranks 39th all-time with 1,186 career points. Greg Paulus currently ranks 40th on the school’s all-time list with 1,173 career points. Gerald Henderson ranks 48th with 1,111 career points.
• Sophomore Kyle Singler is also chasing 1,000 career points this season. He currently has 894 career points.
• The Blue Devils scored 78 points and have now scored 70 or more in 24 of the 28 games on the year. Duke is 21-3 this season when scoring at least 70 points and 664-132 all-time under Coach K.
• Four Duke players scored in double figures, marking the 15th game this season that four or more players have scored at least 10 points for the Blue Devils.
• Duke made 25 field goals to give them 19 games with 25 or more made field goals.
• The eight made three-point field goals for the Blue Devils give them 14 games with eight or more made treys. Duke has made 24 three-point field goals in the last three games.
• Duke made 20 free throws and have now made 20 or more from the foul line in 11 games this year, including the last three contests.
• The Blue Devils outrebounded Maryland 39-28 and have now outrebounded its opponent 18 times in 28 games.
• Duke committed only nine turnovers, the sixth time this year they have recorded single digits in turnovers. Four of those six games have been in February.
• Duke held Maryland to 67 points, including 33 in the second half. The Blue Devils have held 18 opponents to under 70 points on the year.
• The Blue Devils limited the Terps to three made three-point field goals. Duke has held 12 opponents to three or fewer made treys, including seven ACC opponents.
• Maryland committed 11 turnovers and the Blue Devils have now caused over 10 turnovers in all 28 games this season.
• Duke blocked six shots to give them nine games this season with five or more blocks.
Duke Player Notes:
• Junior Gerald Henderson scored 19 points to extend his double figure scoring streak to 20 games. He has scored 10 or more points in 24 games on the season and 56 times in his career. He has scored 16 or more in 14 straight games.
• Henderson pulled down eight rebounds to give him 14 games this season with five or more boards. He has at least five rebounds in 41 career contests and eight or more in five games this year.
• Henderson set a career high with four blocked shots. His previous high was three blocked shots in a game three times, including the Michigan game on Dec. 6. The four blocks give Henderson 66 career blocks, moving him into 20th on Duke’s career blocks list.
• With three assists Henderson has now recorded three or more assists in 13 games this season and 23 career games.
• Senior Greg Paulus became the 26th player in school history to play in 130 career games.
• Paulus made 2-of-3 three-point field goals to give him 205 career made treys. He has made two or more three-point field goals in nine games this season.
• Junior Jon Scheyer scored 12 points to reach double figures in scoring for the 21st time this season and 67th career outing.
• Scheyer had three rebounds to give him three or more in 23 games this season and in 73 career games.
• Scheyer dished out five assists to lead the team on Wednesday and now has five or more assists in five games on the year. He posted his 17th game this season with at least three assists and has led the team in assists in 14 games.
• Sophomore Kyle Singler recorded his eighth double-double of the season and fourth in conference play with 13 points and 10 rebounds. He now has 12 career double-doubles.
• Singler has now recorded at least one point, rebound, assist, blocked shot and steal in a game 14 times this season.
• The 13 points give Singler a team-high 25 double figure scoring games this season. Wednesday marked his 50th career double figure scoring game.
• With 10 rebounds Singler has now pulled down 10 or more rebounds in eight games on the year and 12 career games. He has eight or more rebounds in 15 games and at least five rebounds in 26 of the 28 games this season.
• Junior Lance Thomas recorded two steals to give him a steal in five of the last six games and in 10 games overall. He has four games this season with two steals.
• Freshman Elliot Williams scored a career-high 15 points on 6-of-8 from the field, 1-of-2 from the three-point line and 2-of-4 from the foul line. He has three straight games with 10 or more points after not scoring in double figures in his first 22 collegiate games.
• After shooting 6-of-8 from the floor, Williams has three straight games with at least five field made field goals. He is shooting 16-of-22 (.727) in the past three games.
• Williams grabbed six rebounds and now has five or more rebounds in three outings this year.
• Junior Brian Zoubek blocked a shot for the 17th game this season. He now has a team-high 25 blocks on the year, nearly doubling his career total of 26 coming into the year.
The Atlanta Tip Off Club will select the Naismith College Basketball Player of the
Year during the Final Four in Detroit, Michigan. Sophomore Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson are on the list of finalist for the prestigious award.
The Blue Devils are one of six schools with two players on the list.
ATLANTA (Feb. 24, 2009) – No college program has ever won a Heisman Trophy and a Naismith
Trophy in the same academic year, but Blake Griffin is looking to put Oklahoma in uncharted territory.
The 6-10 sophomore hopes to follow fellow Sooner Sam Bradford in being named the top player in his respective sport, as Griffin headlines the 30 mid-season candidates for the 2009 Naismith Trophy presented by AT&T, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced today.
Among those joining Griffin are Stephen Curry (Davidson), 2008 winner Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina), Luke Harangody (Notre Dame), Jodie Meeks (Kentucky) and Jeff Teague (Wake Forest) and Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson (Duke).
Overall, the ACC has nine players on the list, followed by the Big East with eight. Six schools are represented by two players apiece: Connecticut, Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest.
The top 30 men’s list was voted on by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s Board of Selectors, comprised ofleading basketball journalists, coaches and administrators from around the country. The board based its criteria on player performances this season.
The vote was tabulated and certified by the accounting firm of Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, LLP. HA&W is the largest independent accounting firm in Georgia and
one of the top 50 firms in the United States. The Naismith Trophy presented by AT&T is the most prestigious national basketball award and is given annually to the men’s college basketball player ofthe year. This year, the award will be presented at the NCAA Men’s Final Four in Detroit.
This season marks the 40th anniversary of the first Naismith Trophy, which was presented to UCLA’s Lew Alcindor, who is known today as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. At the time, the Atlanta Tipoff Club, founded during the 1956-57 basketball season, was looking to create a national identity for its brand and created the award to honor the best basketball player in the nation. Alcindor, along with UCLA
head coach John Wooden, flew to Atlanta in the spring of 1969 to receive the trophy. “Looking at the college basketball landscape, it’s understandable that so many of the top players nationwide are contenders for the Naismith Trophy,” said Gary Stokan, president, Atlanta Tipoff Club.
“The final month of the season will be telling, and that is what makes college basketball so exciting.” For the sixth consecutive season, presenting sponsor AT&T will once again set the standard in allowing fans to participate in determining this year’s winner. Through the power and ease of text
messaging, fan voting will account for an unprecedented 25 percent of the final results — more than any other national college basketball award. This year, beginning March 22, AT&T wireless customers — and sports fans on other wireless networks — will be able to text their votes for the player of their
“The Naismith Trophy is unique among college awards in that it gives the fans a real voice inselecting the top player in the country,” said Tim McGhee, executive director, AT&T Corporate Sponsorships. “AT&T is proud to sponsor the Naismith and to empower fans to make sure their
voices are heard”
CBS Sports’ “AT&T at the Half” features a weekly Naismith Trophy Watch, highlighting the men’s players in contention for the coveted award who have distinguished themselves throughout the season. On March 22, CBS will announce the four Naismith Trophy finalists during its first-round coverage of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. For more information, visit www.naismithawards.com.
The offensive woes of late - While Duke has struggled in conference games offensively, averaging 70.6 ppg, they still remain third in the conference overall at 78.2. During yesterday's press conference, Krzyzewski openly joked about his offense in the last couple of games before taking on a serious tone saying, "We're still trying to find our identity offensively. But we are trying to find ways of incorporate more people, not just the three point shot. We need to put ourselves in a position to get fouled a little bit more and get it into the post. Not just the post for big men, but Gerald. We're still very much developing there. The offense has got to get better." Duke is clearly waiting for the offense to come into its own but with eight regular season games left it has become a concern. "Our offense takes on the identity of our key players," said Krzyzewski who will adjust his offense to roster personnel.
The defense is solid -"Our defense and rebounding is up a notch or two from last year and that's why we've won," said Krzyzewski. The Blue Devils are letting
up just 61.0 ppg, but they will be tested like no other game versus UNC who averages 92.3 ppg.
Rebounding is solid - Duke is third in the conference in rebounding despite their lack of depth inside. The team has bought into how important this is. UNC will surely try to dominate the glass in Cameron and it'll take one of Dukes better efforts to offset this.
Dave McClure -A huge plus of late has been the outstanding play of Dave McClure who is showing senior leadership. "David has always been a solid player in our program and a part time starter. What he's done this year is be an outstanding defender and the ultimate role player. He's done a lot of little things that end up being big things. In the game Saturday, he's probably good for gaining 18 possessions for us - thirteen on rebounds and five keeping the ball alive. That's a lot of points and there is no stats for that," said Krzyzewski of his play. He went on to say his role was similar to what Dennis Rodman use to do for the Bulls which is high praise.
Greg Paulus will start- Kryzewski announced that Greg Paulus would start on Wednesday. "Greg didn't so much re-earn his spot, he will start obviously
against, or maybe not so obviously against Carolina. Greg played a great game on Saturday. He did that while we as a group were going through a very adverse time. When somebody steps up when we are going through adversity, that's the best. He played a great game, he was all over the place," said Krzyzewski. He went on to say that Paulus has dealt with a lot of frustration not being able to prepare in the off season for his senior year due to injury.
Nolan Smith is okay and ready as well -"This is a good thing for Nolan. Nolan is a much developing player. He's played really good basketball for us. All of a sudden you are in intense conference play and we are not functioning well offensively puts even more pressure on him," said Krzyzewski. Expect to see both Smith and Paulus play together some versus UNC and Smith is still considered to be a starter. Smith later stated that he was okay with the decision, but it was clear it may have motivated him a bit to for now, lose his spot at the "1" position.
Gerald Henderson- "For over a month now, he's been pretty good," said Krzyzewski, calling him their most established player offensively. Henderson keyed a second half run versus Miami but had only two points in the first half. "In the first half, he was more of a shooter and in the second half he attacked. He has to remember that's who he is." said Coach.
Kyle Singler -"Physically, he's okay. He's just playing like a warrior. Maybe he needs to be a little bit more precise on his technique when shooting. He's missed some lay ups that have been in and out. He just needs to keep doing it. We need f
or him to stay aggressive, but physically he's okay," said Krzyzewski. Singler had been sick but is better now. In short Duke wants him to shoot through his many drought.
How to slow the UNC offense- Krzyzewski said it would be a huge challenge and that it would take a team effort to slow them down. He also made reference to how important bench play would be in this game. "To win big games you try to play well for forty minutes and that's what we are going to try to do and they are going to try an not let us play well," stated Krzyzewski.
Interesting K quote- "None of my players are where I want them to be because I always want them to be better."
Closing K quote - "You know, we get a chance to play a game of this level. Not many programs in the United States would ever play this level of game and we get to play it twice. Historically, this game has helped both programs win or lose because you've been tested. I think that's the most important ... over the years Duke and Carolina have made each other better. It's a good game to be at and a heck of a game to be in." He went on to say that the most relevant thing in this game is that both teams were 7-2 in the conference and atop the conference coming into the game.
Anybody who has watched a lot of basketball will tell you teams play in cycles. Sometimes a made shot, key steal or more importantly a win will get you back on track.
Well, Duke hopes today's hard fought victory over a game Miami team will pull them out of a funk. It certainly looked as if the Blue Devils were on their way to a second straight loss after one of the worst half's of offensive basketball I have seen them play.
Coming off the Clemson debacle, fans hoped to see a well oiled machine, but it became evident that Duke was in a mental funk and by intermission even the most positive fans were wondering if Duke could find any way to score.
While the first half was seriously ugly, the end result was beautiful for Duke. Wise men will tell you that win you win a game like this, you let the first half go. In fact, Duke should let the Clemson game as well.
Ironically, it was the much maligned Greg Paulus who was a key catalyst. He made some mistakes but he played through them and continued to hustle forcing many miscues you don't get credit for in the stat sheet.
Paulus three pointers and 18 points were especially vital considering sophomore Nolan Smith has all of a sudden got the look of a deer in headlights about him when on the court.
Singler struggled mightily from the outside and took a few rushed shots, but his toughness on the boards was vital as well. The super soph hit just 5 of his 23 shots, but he had the presence of mind to keep shooting and that is what was needed.
Like Paulus, senior Dave McClure reached deep down to help his fellow Devils. McCluers defense was stellar and his game high 14 rebounds were incredible for many of them were created by pure desire. One needs to not that half of them were on the offensive boards.
And then there is Gerald Henderson. After a single point before the half, he asserted himself to score 19 points and many of those were in one key stretch run.
The bottom line is if you look at individual stats and the Duke shooting percentage, you would think they lost. But they didn't and much of that can be attributed to half time adjustments where Coach K tinkered with his defense.
During the second half, Krzyzewski made another good move, calling a timeout after his team hit a stretch where they missed five shot in a row, all beyond the stripe. He obviously told them to attack more and when they did it payed off.
You can certainly point to a lot of areas Duke needs work on, be it attacking a zone defense or getting players other than the big three to step up. Actually, two did step up today and they were both seniors. Duke could not have won this game without their spirited play.
In the end, there was one key thing which happened today and that was Duke got the win. The way they had to fight back to take that win is something which cannot be measured with concerns to confidence.
Duke is now realizing how hard teams will come at them and they are seeing defenses designed to give them trouble. Despite how bad some feel Duke is playing, they are tied atop the conference at 7-2 and won their 20th game of the season against three losses.
You see, it's better to struggle or see those defenses now for those are the kind of lessons that prepare you for March. Duke will now prepare for rival North Carolina. The two teams will battle for sole possession of first place in the ACC and you can be sure that the lessons learned by Duke will benefit them in this game.