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Huskies Bites Devils 71-67

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PRE-GAME

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After losing to UConn tonight 71-66, Duke has now equaled their total losses
for last season at 0-2.  Coach K schedules these tough early games in order
to gauge his team's ability, and no doubt he learned a lot from this one.

The most immediate deficiency is youth, and that will only improve with
time.  Still, you saw in this game, and over the weekend, some sweet plays
from Williams, Dunleavy, Boozer, and Horvath.

For a good bit of this game, Duke played intelligently and under control,
though post play continues to be a serious problem.  Matt Christensen is a
smart player, a strong kid, and capable of helping this team. But he's probably
trying too hard.  And in fairness, he's doing it because no one else is
stepping up to do it.  Battier is likely being asked to do so much offensively
that it will be difficult for him to play down low, and it's not really his
position, anyway.  On this team, the best hope inside currently is Carlos
Boozer. He has shown flashes, including that sweet under the basket move tonight
and his steal against Stanford, but Coach K also seemed irritated that he isn't
playing physically enough. At 6-9 or 6-10, and 260, he's big enough to play
rough.  Not everyone is temperamentally suited to play physical ball, but
at that size, Boozer will be asked to do it whether he likes it or not. 

The lack of an inside presence finds Duke jacking up threes all too
often.  That should change as Boozer continues to round into form, but for
the short term, at least, it's a serious problem.

The alternative approach to this dilemma, of course, is the Isiah Thomas
approach, or the Kenny Anderson approach, where a tough, penetrating guard
breaks down the offense and gets his teammates easy shots by either penetrating
and dishing for easy baskets underneath or kicking out for threes. This won't
work if the other Dukies are shooting too quickly, but Jason is quick enough and
passes well enough to do this.  As Coach K said, he's still learning the
Point.

Before UConn took the game over (and in some ways after), there were a lot of
positives. For one, Dunleavy had a great first half - you might not have noticed
but that layup he hit was with his off-hand.  Maybe not a big deal, you
say, but not many freshmen do that.  For another,  Jason pretty much
held his own with El-Amin. Their stats are very similar, actually. He still has
to do a better job of ball pressure, but periodically, and certainly more than
he did against Stanford, Jason showed his potential.  He's not going to get
many assists passing the ball around the horn, but when he penetrates, or when
there is a break, well you don't want to look away.

Battier and Carrawell are stepping their games up and  Nate stepped up
tonight and made up for a poor game last night.  These guys understand what
it takes to succeed at this level. That's not necessarily true of their younger
teammates - not yet, anyway.  But you hope it will be soon.

And there are a lot of good things going on - single digit turnovers in both
games,  are rebounding better than a team with a weak post presence should,
and, from time to time, lights out defense.  These guys can build an
identity around slashing and shooting and defense, but they are going to have to
have more consistent habits, and they also have to keep their chins up. 
Losing two games doesn't mean they stink - they don't.  They just started
with two tough games.  When you start seeing solid, lengthy performances
from Dunleavy, and Boozer starts applying his muscle,  and Williams feels
comfortable asserting himself, you'll see a pretty different team. There is a
lot of talent here, and a lot of potential. The only problem is youth, and
though we might like to adjust that, only time works.   

Now back to Durham, where Coach K will start to take apart Carlos Boozer's
head and see what makes him tick, much like a watchmaker. He'll work on
Williams, to make him more appropriately arrogant (in the the sense that he
believes his is a superior player and carries himself accordingly. He has a good
idea of what needs to be done, and now, in the words of Ross Perot, he'll get
under the hood and fix it. We're disappointed about losing two games, but we're still excited about where things will go from
here.