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Well now wasn't that invigorating? What a game. What a gutty
second half. Of course the second half - more precisely the second half of the
second half and then overtime - wouldn't have been nearly as exciting if it had
not been for Nate James, who basically kept Duke alive when, collectively, they
were not playing well at all.
Credit part of that to DePaul. Pat Kennedy had his guys come out in a funky
zone which seemed to go back and forth between a 1-3- 1 and a 2-3. He also
threw a net across the court and slowed Duke's advance nearly everytime down the
court. C-well and Jason Williams played catch most of the time and then
advanced the ball to one of the big guys over the line. In a very positive
sign, they generally did this with great discipline, rarely rushing the ball
It was after the ball was over the line that the problems began. It took Duke
a while to figure out DePaul's zone. They did make a good run near the end of
the half, but DePaul answered and left the impression that they were really in
control of the game, not Duke. Duke had a very difficult time in particular
matching up with DePaul's Hunter in the first half. Long, tall and quick, he got
a lot of putbacks and played a solid game. Duke controlled Richardson reasonably
well, then the other kids chipped in.
In the second half, Duke started out with a push, then DePaul pushed back and
pushed the lead out to 12 before Duke began to rally. Foul trouble played a role
in this. But so did the fact that they had more or less figured out the
zone, and were putting a lot of pressure on DePaul. So out went the zone
and in came man to man, and Jason Williams eyes lit up.
We've talked a lot about the potential we've seen in Jason, and you have
likely seen flashes of it by now. Yes, he has to learn judgment, but that
comes with experience, and that can only come with time. Tonight he came
within a whisker of a triple double, getting 15 points, 10 assists, and 9
boards. But he wasn't that far off a quintuple double, not that he would
have wanted it. He had 7 turnover and 6 steals.
More importantly, when winning time came, Jason stepped up and was ready to
be the man. Sometimes he was, sometimes he wasn't. But he was ready
to take it on, and you know what? Most of the time he pulled it off. So we
saw several late drives and passes, (we realized the difference between Jason
and Dunleavy as passers - Dunleavy gets rid of the ball immediately, whereas
Jason moves with it and is a power passer - he really puts some heat on them.
It's like the difference between Clemens and Hershiser maybe), a very clutch
steal and a not so clutch missed dunk, and the best ball pressure we've seen him
apply yet. His game was so much better tonight, so much more advanced than
we had seen. He just needs to get his mistakes out of his system.
Nonethless, there was the rookie at the end of the game, calling his own
number, taking charge, and generally doing something good or making up for it
with something else good. He also played all 45 minutes and never looked
tired at all.
Carrawell, who for much of the game had only 2 points, came up huge at the
end, and was very aggressive. Battier again had to concentrate much of his
energy on defense and at times he was simply magnificent. Still, he hit
6-8 from the floor and ended up with 17.]
Now. There has been a lot of criticism of Boozer, and to a lesser extent of
the way Sanders is being brought along, which, frankly, baffles us. On the
call-in show after the game, call after call very politely (in the Triangle
radio tradition) criticized the way Duke is handling these two. So let's
go over it again: Boozer is coming off a major injury. He's a freshman,
and he's playing hurt, or more precisely, not fully recovered. He weighs
260 pounds and is playing his way back into shape in his first season. He's 7
games in. College basketball, at this level, is a razor's edge in terms of
conditioning. We saw Buck Owens once, on TV, grimace at a band member when
he made a mistake. Later he said that he hadn't practiced in two days and
he wasn't sharp. The same principle applies. Passing judgment on Boozer -
or how the staff uses him - is just stupid at this point. He's way
behind. Give the kid a chance to catch up, give him some credit for
busting his ass to catch up, and have faith in the staff that they know what
they're doing. And get real - all those final fours, all those banners, all
those trophies - they don't just happen. These people know what they are doing.
Just have a little faith.
Sanders is a different situation. His two limitations are weight
and savvy, and again, only time will cure those. A lot of his skills are
not very highly developed. Having said that, our impression from where we
sit (a ways away we might add) is that Sanders is a student in a high sense of
the word and he is studying to take his role on this team. He seems to be
an enthusiastic student, a supportive teammate, and a guy who everyone should be
proud of. Much like Boozer, he is trying to make up lost ground.
Both of them are working really hard and improving, so maybe the public
criticism could yield to some constructive support. And besides, when they
get to where they are going, you are going to feel dumb for having said a lot of
dumb things. No on in particular, it's just a theme this season. They'll
both be fine. They're not automatons you just plug in, they're human
beings. They'll get there.
So back to the game and overtime. Even in overtime it seemed for the
most part that DePaul had a lot of advantages. They drew first blood, and
Duke never seemed able to quite get over the hump. Then when they hit
their final basket - was it Richardson? - and went up two, Coach K pulled
Boozer,who played with a lot of fire in the second half, and sent in Horvath,
who promptly banked in a three point shot from the top of the key. With
less than 15 seconds left, DePaul had one more chance but couldn't get a shot
off, and the fan's rushed the court. It was one of those moments in
Cameron which happen from time to time, where everyone stops and marvels.
People didn't want to leave for the longest time.
Ok, so what to take away from the game:
- Duke did a nice job controlling a great player, Quentin Richardson
- During the first half, when Carrawell, Battier, and Williams were
offensively stymied, James carried the Devils, scoring half their points and
providing great leadership, heart, and passion.
- Duke played the overtime with three freshmen on the court at all times -
and did fine, despite a few mistakes.
- Williams elevated his game and was willing to take charge at a key point
in a tough game. He drove a lot late in the game, generally to good
- Boozer is starting to show periodic flashes of a powerful
athleticism. His left handed dunk was impressive, and his reverse
layup, which obviously excited him a great deal and probably relieved a lot
of frustration, was sweet.
- Nick Horvath, who started but quickly drew two fouls and sat a long time,
had a major confidence booster in his late trey. As soon as we got over his
absolute lack of hesitation, the name came to mind without bidding or
control - Little Laettner. But Horvath isn't Laettner, he's Nick
Horvath. That's fine by us. Great clutch play for the kid.
- This game may well be a major turning point. While the post still needs to
be sorted out, the other four starters - C-well, Battier, James, and
Williams - have all carried the team at different times and shown a lot of
heart. And Dunleavy has had a couple of phenomenal games. And
now Nick Horvath has had a huge moment in the sun. It's a question now
about who takes what responsibilities, and who ends up doing best
inside. All in all, though, having 4 out of 5 positions solidified,
with 2 excellent reserves and a big man recovering, is good news in our
Notes - the Crazies were in superb form tonight. Our House indeed....Boozer
got under Hunter's skin at one point, leaning on him and playing a physical
game...Williams' demeanor was notably different tonight...a different kind of
aggression....Boozer had some clumsy plays, but as we said, the level of
conditioning he's trying to catch up to is pretty intense...Kennedy did a move
on the sidelines which almost made us nostalgic for Dean's old belly thrust...it
looked like some deviant disco movement...the record for home wins
continues....39 and counting...
Greetings to you all from the fair city of New York. I
hope you didn't miss me all that much, since I'm sure
I can't add much to the discussion. After all, I'm
only watching the nationally televised games. That
said, I have a bit to say here.
It's rare that I'm left speechless after a win (as you
can tell by my verbose style of prose). Yet this is
one of those nights that I am literally flabbergasted
by the turn of events. Duke opened the game flatter
than pancakes. Flatter than hour-old soda water.
Flatter than candidate Al Gore, even. I don't know of
many times Duke will open the game 2-17 from the floor
with six turnovers in six minutes. DePaul took
advantage to roll up to a 15-4 lead, but tenacious
Duke defense, holding DePaul to 2-13 on the next few
possessions and forcing bunches of turnovers on their
own, helped them crawl back. And the utterly
remarkable play of Nate James, more on him later.
opened the second half flat again, incredibly enough,
suffering yet another big DePaul run, and didn't take
a lead until 6:58 remained in the game. They went
ahead by six, but time and again, DePaul refused to
back down. Both teams' starters played virtually the
entire game and the fatigue was evident in the final
few minutes. Williams was the only player with speed
left, but even he made poor decisions at the end,
perhaps mentally exhausted. In a key development, Nate
James fouled out, and in the span of 60 seconds,
DePaul scores two quick baskets to trim the lead to
two, and eventually forces OT. Hardly a coincidence.
In overtime, DePaul jumped out on a 3 by Q, who
deserves the reputation of one of the best players of
I'm particularly impressed by his attitude --
Carrawell shut him down for the most part, but instead
of forcing up horrible shots and trying to push
anyway, he repeatedly found teammates for good looks
and passed to more open men. Extremely mature play,
and he'll go far. Then, Duke found themselves down by
4 with 48 seconds to go, and things looked grim. Shane
hit two free throws, and DePaul answered with one on
the other end. Carrawell hit two of three, and Simmons
swished two. Duke down by two with twelve seconds
left, and Horvath came right off a curl, and doing his
best Trajan Langdon impersation, drilled a
devastatingly improbable three. DePaul couldn't
capitalize as Q misfired with Carrawell in his face,
and the game ended. Utterly remarkable.
Despite all the sloppy play, despite the lackadaisacal
offense at times, despite getting wiped out on the
offensive glass, there are bundles of good things to
take from this game. Duke's big men, Horvath and
Boozer, matured a great deal in this outing, and got
major minutes, Nick despite sitting most of the first
half in foul trouble. Jason Williams continues to
impress with his passing ability, which even now
surpasses Avery's. And the team proved that they could
win even with the veterans on the squad (aside from
Nate James) having a terrible offensive outing.
Let's start with the man of the hour, Mr...
Horvath -- K finally decided to start a guy with girth
to guard the talented Hunter, and it appeared to work,
as Nick was surprisingly tough under the boards and
got a nice layup inside. It was great to see how he
kept the rebound high while doing it, and not leaving
his feet. Unfortunately, Hunter was quicker and
taller, which meant Nick had to sit after a scant two
minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls.
In the second half, he came back to hit a tremendous
three, and of course, after sitting on the bench for
25363 hours, calmly banked in a three. What tremendous
mental toughness and concentration that must take.
Let's hope that that last three didn't antagonize him
to K. (If it missed, can you imagine the chewing-out
he'd receive in the locker room? Shudder.)
Battier -- Battier is still tops on defense and Duke's
only legitimate low-post defender as of this point. He
was tremendous, blocking a couple of shots (including
a clean strip of a sure-fire two-handed jam by
MacPherson) and drawing two critical, critical charges
in the game. That said, I'm very disappointed with
Shane's offense so far. Instead of stepping up like
Carrawell and now James, Shane really isn't looking
for his shot on the offensive end. He still seems
gunshy about trying to drive into the lane, and his
threes aren't falling early in the season. He seems to
be going back to scoring on offensive putbacks;
important, certainly, but he's one guy that needs to
look for his shot more. One can tell he wants to be a
leader (screaming at his teammates after Duke was down
13-4), but one can only lead so much as a defensive
James -- Whatever Nate ate, I want a piece of. Nate
simply couldn't miss in the first half, lighting
DePaul up for 18(!), fully half of Duke's output.
Great drives to the basket, lots and lots of threes, a
resounding jam on a drive to help break the 2-17
drought, it was all good. This makes his retreating
offensively in the second half a little bit maddening
-- you've got the hot hand, Nate, push it as far as it
can go! Of course, James' defense cannot be
underestimated. He sits, DePaul makes a run to tie the
game. Make no mistake, James will be a vital cog, and
I wouldn't be surprised if he edges out Dunleavy for
time in the NCAA's.
Carrawell -- After a good performance against the
Illini, Carrawell couldn't find the range this
evening. However, guarding one of the nation's best is
no easy task, and Double C had his hands full this
evening. Even when his shots weren't falling, he was
taking DePaul to the limit by clamping down on the big
Q, limiting him to just four points in the second
half. Furthermore, give Carrawell big big points for
presence of mind about the game. He was in position
many times to take open threes, but opted to pass or
drive instead. With the enormous amount of threes
already being jacked up by Duke, Chris recognized this
and tried to add penetration to the game, even if his
jumpstops didn't fall.
Williams -- Carrawell waved him off in the Illini
game. Well, perhaps he should have given him the ball,
after all. Despite starting out a dreadful 2-10 from
the floor (most of which were threes), Jay finally
took the hint and started driving to the hoop late in
the game, with good results -- a jam by Boozer, a
layup, and a foul situation in which he sank both. Of
course, he had the typical freshman mistake. On a
tremendous midcourt steal on a wide-open break, and
with his team up by a tenuous four, he goes for the
highlight jam, blows it, and DePaul promptly scores on
the other end. It's a good thing that didn't cost Duke
the game, as it could well have. His passing abilities
are still in the growing stage; in the early game, he
had three quick turnovers, all on thread-the-needle
and "Sportscenter" (in the words of Vitale) passes
that would be best left behind. That said, Williams'
passing ability is truly exciting, and it will be
great fun to watch this young man develop.
Boozer -- This was a good game for Carlos in that it
was the first time he saw major action in crunch time,
heck major action period, and he will take a lot from
this game. As for his performance, well, the reviews
are decidedly mixed. My main concern with Boozer right
now is not his feet, but his hands. More times than I
care to count, Carlos had rebounds taken from him by
smaller and quicker guys, and his handle isn't where
it needs to be for him to drive like he attempted in
overtime (which nearly resulted in a turnover for
Duke). On the other hand, his presence helped deflect
Hunter away from the basket, and the Blue Demons had
to respect his posting ability. It's good to see
Carlos cut to the hoop for the jam and fill it up on
the break, though.
Dunleavy -- Well, it had to happen. Mike played
arguably the weakest game of the season so far, and
unfortunately for the big guy, everything seemed to
happen at the worst times for Duke. Shooting contested
threes without setting, making bad decisions, turning
the ball over, losing track of your man on defense, it
all happened. One can see why K sagaciously decided to
start Nick instead. Fortunately, Mike will undoubtedly
grow from this game and one already has seen his
bottomless potential in previous games with gorgeous
passing and decent shooting.
Christensen -- Played a little in the first half, and
although he plugged the middle a little, also tended
to slow down the Duke offense. He'll probably
gravitate toward the Taymon Domzalski role on this
club, but I'm unsure if he has Taymon's ability.
Sanders -- It's really tough to see Casey getting any
minutes this year. Even if he does improve (and he
certainly will), it might not be enough to dislodge
Boozer or Christensen, or even Horvath, barring an
injury to any of the above. Still, it's early, and
before we relegate Casey to being another
Bersticker(tm), let's see how he does in the next few
months. A lot of talk has circulated that he's not so
good on the fundamentals, but we'll have to see.
K -- In my opinion, he probably should have used a
timeout earlier in the game to slow DePaul's
tremendous momentum, and he came this close to
drawing a technical in the second half when the Devils
were getting their tucki kicked. Still, he did about
as well as he could to hold down the fort and get
people thinking in the right manner. With Jason
Williams playing out of control in the first half, K
set the rules for him. He quickly recognized an
ineffective Dunleavy and gave the green light to
James. Finally, with the ferocious Blue Demon press
bothering his team at the beginning, he emphasized
ball reversal and got great open looks at the basket.
A good all-around coaching job.
MISC. -- First, a sacrilegious statement: I have had
Krispy Kremes in the past, and you know, I just don't
see what the fuss is all about. Of course, I don't get
the kick from sugar these days like I used to...Now a
second sacrilegious statement. Good props go to Chris
Carrawell for nailing the game-winning foul shots
against the Illini and playing great defense on
Bradford, so he deserves recognition. It should be
noted, though, that one of the reasons Illinois was
ahead at the break was because Double C really came up
empty at the end of the first half, missing nearly all
his shots (and perhaps rushing a little bit)...It only
took one and a half minutes into the game for Vitale
to rush off-topic. That must be some kind of record.