Frankly, we're confused. How do the Five Star Hawks and the Down Under
Bandits (now there's a questionable name decision) go to Maryland, State,
Virginia, Wake Forest, and UNC and give them reasonably competitive games, and
then come to Duke and get shredded? We thought the Aussies would provide a
sterner test than the Hawks, but Duke trounced them by 60 - 123-63.Â And
frankly, despite the domination, there were some bugs in Duke's game tonight,
which makes the dominance that much more impressive.
Nate James exploded for 10 points in the first two minutes of the game, and
the route was set. The Aussies played fundamentally sound ball, as expected, as
international teams tend to do, but Duke matched them. What international teams
do better than American teams, typically, is to space the court, swing the ball
around, and shoot where the defense isn't.Â Duke is doing that too, just as
well, and better than most Duke teams we've seen. Williams is a brilliant
passer, of course, but as we said last time, it's spreading: tonight we saw
almost everyone on the court make at least one remarkable pass - Horvath is
passing wonderfully from the high post, Dunleavy had a couple, Boozer made a
gorgeous pass under the basket, C-well made a lookaway pass on a break,
Christensen had a couple, too. Passing is the heart of the game and this team
has the potential to do that at a high level. At one point they rotated the ball
behind the defense and swung it back around again for a Jason Williams tre.
Incidentally, Jason has said on a couple of occasions he has put his fancier
moves away, that they don't work at this level.Â What the hell does he call
what he's doing now? Some of his passes are ridiculous. He did one on the break
that almost no one saw coming, a daring foray into the lane caught by
C-well.Â It had to be seen, it's impossible to explain it. He also is a
master at getting out of tight spots by going behind his back.
But the real story of tonight's game was Boozer. Duke pounded it into Boozer
repeatedly, giving him plenty of reps in the post, and he took it up
consistently, and got to the line about 11 times (we haven't seen a box
yet).Â He also is showing a lot more agility and speed than he has so far -
at one point he stripped someone at halfcourt and raced in for a slam. He also
at one point got trapped down low and passed out for a three - something that
wouldn't have happened last year. That's not a knock on Elton, but it's true.
They have different games and different skills. Boozer has a ways to go yet to
get back to where he should be, but he showed some nice flashes tonight.
It's a hard game to describe. It's hard not to be pleased with such a
dominating performance, yet there were some elements that weren't maybe what
they should be.Â Dunleavy had a freshman game and seemed frustrated at the
end.Â He almost shot an airball, backed into a double team at the center
jump circle and trapped himself, and had some lapses.Â Horvath made a
couple of mental errors. Nate had a sterling performance, and is getting to be
very reliable from behind the line, but picked up three travels when trying to
get off monster dunks.Â It was too bad, because his game was sensational
otherwise - he also rebounded well and played strong inside.Â Â
Shane also had a solid game, blocking shots, shooting well, and being a
stable anchor to build around - same for C-well, who really had some sweet
offense in the second half, and played his usual solid defense (after the game
he spoke of how much he likes Stanford's Mark Madsen, complimenting his Spanish,
and saying how much he wanted to beat him).
At the end of the game, Casey Sanders stepped up and showed his enormous
potential. He had two sensational blocks, showing his tremendous talent, and got
loose underneath for a couple of dunks.Â He also is beginning to understand
what he's supposed to do on the court and appears to be a quick learner.Â
People should remember that this isn't a guy naturally inclined toward
athletics.Â When he saw the Florida football stadium, someone told him it
was the chemistry facility - and he believed it.Â We were also told that he
had no idea Tim Duncan and David Robinson played for the Spurs - or that they
were the NBA champions. It may take him a bit to get fully up to speed on the
basketball world (and mentality), but a guy that tall who can run and jump like
that - well it's worth being patient.Â He's very gifted, but very naive
still about athletics.Â He may decide at some point he'd rather be a
musician or an artist, like his parents, than a basketball player, but his
talent is remarkable.
All things considered, it's hard to figure out how the Hawks and the Bandits
have had competitive games with all the other ACC teams and been trashed by
Duke.Â Supposedly young, supposedly vulnerable, so far they look very, very
tough.Â Are they as good as last year? A couple of people have told us they
think they are. We don't.Â But this team seems to be bonding more firmly
than last year's did, and the passing, as we said, is infectious.Â It's a
lot of fun to watch. Now we'll see Thursday - and Friday - how they do against
strong teams from strong conferences.Â It should be fun.
Notes...Horvath is still wearing his Freddy Kruger mask to protect his facial
injuries..Jason Williams brought the crowd to their feet a number of
times...Coach K shot off the bench at one point like he had an ejector seat...it
was nice to see...this year's token New Englander hit a tres at the end...we're
particularly pleased to see Christensen catch the ball high and shoot it without
bringing it down - nice fundamentals....at one point, K sent in three players,
two of them freshmen, who confused who they were going in for...it took a minute
to get it all straight...Dunleavy seemed to be forcing his game a bit
tonight...Battier and Sanders could be a deadly shotblocking duo....Andre
Buckner fouled way too much but he was annoying and pesky, which is his job...at
the end of the game he took aÂ rebound and went coast to coast, missing the
Tieguy sent us his impressions of the game and the Crazies. We're always
interested in hearing from any Crazies who heard cool stuff during the game, so
send it in!
Well, when I showed up at the stadium today about an hour and a half
before gametime, there were all of 70 students in the student section.
I've never in four years seen anything quite like that before- a
virtually empty Cameron, with players on the floor and shooting. It was,
frankly, pretty pathetic. By game time, though, about 3/4 of the student
section was full, which while not great, is not too bad for a game which
was basically not mentioned in the Chronicle.(1)
Despite the mediocre attendance, I was actually pretty impressed by the
crowd- volume was good, and I think generally more consistently loud and
spirited than most of last year (up until the very end.) Despite good
attendance last year, crowds were flat and lacked energy, even at most ACC
games. That was not the case today- the center of the court was actively
leading cheers (or so it seemed from the baseline) and people picked up
cheers quickly and well. These are good signs for the rest of the year.
Creativity was unfortunately not at a high point (one of my all-time
favorites was "Velcome Austrians" from this game my freshman year) but
there were several good ones that never quite got going- "Go Back Under,"
"Frank's got hemorrhoids,(2)" and "Too Much Fosters(3)" being favorites.
I also heard some good suggestions by freshmen- very important.
Anyway, it was certainly not the Crazies best- attendance was incredibly
weak, even for an exhibition game. But I think there were some good
signs, and once people get to know this team, things will be back to
normal in good old Cameron.
my two cents-
(1)In the students' defense- the Chronicle did not even mention the game,
and most students get their info from the Chron. So far this season, the
three pre-season games (including the women's against Russia) have merited
(as far as I can tell) a grand total of one photo and caption _before_
the games. While I appreciate that they have a lot to report on, even a
quarter-pager mentioning the game and attempting to preview the
opponent's strengths and weaknesses can (I believe) make a huge difference in
attendance, and has certainly been a regular occurrence in years past.
(2)An Australian player named Frank fouled out and refused to sit for the
crazies, leading to this (unfortunately poorly followed) cheer.
(3)A fourth player Aussie player fouled out late in the second half. This
would have left them with basically only five players, so the refs
charged the foul to someone else. At least that is what it looked like to
us- it may have been honest confusion. But either way, "too much fosters :)"