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Devils Slap Lions Around 99-52

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We didn't realize that Columbia was
coached by Armond Hill.
One of our all-time favorites in the NBA, Hill is a
product of Princeton, and was an assistant there and so that explains the
remarkable backdoor success Columbia had in this game.  Princeton
basketball has done it to everyone, including Georgetown, UCLA, UNC, and anyone
they come up against pretty much.  It's not Princeton, of course, but the
principle is the same and Hill has taught his charges well. Not that it mattered
that much in the outcome, but it was still a disciplined and smart team and one
we enjoyed watching.

Duke continued to pound the ball inside as much as possible, and
probably the story of the game is the continuing emergence of Carlos Boozer.
After having a late-summer foot injury, Carlos is of course behind his teammates
in every possible way but he is making up for lost time quickly.  He shot
70% from the floor and showed one dazzling spin move in the first half, and like
his rookie teammates Williams and Dunleavy, he can and does use his off hand
comfortably.  He also is beginning to dive on the floor and chase after
loose balls - regaining his skills and confidence, basically. He's not all the
way back, but we're starting to see a pretty versatile, polished player. 
In addition to his other nifty jobs tonight, he had 5 assists, which is pretty
good for a big guy. 16 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds in 23 minutes - that's
pretty solid.

Despite the score, and despite Boozer's rapid improvement (keep
in mind that this was Columbia, not Cincinnati), there were some weaknesses
tonight, primarily defensively.  Columbia is a very well coached team,
needless to say, but that doesn't explain how they scored so consistently
inside.  Look
at the chart from the Totalcast
- they got way too many shots down
low.  The first half for a while seemed kind of dull, unlike vs. Army,
where the first half seemed to have much more vitality.  The stats were
excellent, but the team somehow didn't seem as excited. 

That changed in the second half.  The defense really kicked
up a notch, albeit not under the basket, but the perimeter defense was very
intense. Columbia set excellent picks and took full advantage for layups, but
the pressure was there. Jason in particular stepped it up in the second
half.  After finishing the first half with no assists and sitting a fair
amount, Jason came out for the second half and was fired up.  He showed a
much higher level of ball pressure than he's shown so far, and it was fairly
ferocious, actually. He also showed us a new ability, something we haven't
really seen before anywhere. Every so often a guy comes along with an odd talent
which doesn't show up in the stats. For Gene Banks, it was his superb footwork
which he used to stay in constant motion. With Wojo, it was the ability to get
up after falling down quicker than anyone we've ever seen.  With
Jason,  when he's applying ball pressure, his hands are moving llike an
eggbeater or a boxer or something. It's really very striking.  He was all
over the Columbia guard and his hands were astonishingly fast.

Nate James also had a very solid game, shooting 5-7, playing
tough defense, and just being smart in general. C-well had similar stats,
shooting 7-9.   Battier picked his spots, but hit for 11. 

Matt Christensen played fairly well, including one lumbering
fast break after he picked off a steal - shades of Brand!

Horvath continues to demonstrate a solid knowledge of the game,
making his usual smart passes, and getting inside for a nice jump hook.  He
also had 5 boards and 2 steals.

Jason, as we said, was a tale of two halves. The first half he
was not at his best; the second half he was phenomenal at times. He continues to
find angles which most players, let alone fans, don't get.  One long pass
for a layup was intercepted, but another, where he hit the lane from the corner
and made a very sharp blind bounce pass to his left - very impressive. He also
had 5 steals, and his ball pressure was the best we've seen so far.

Sanders is continuing to improve. He's going to have the
physique of Manute Bol for a time, but he has obviously gotten stronger, and is
much more comfortable now taking the ball up. He's still getting stopped, but he
has to fail before he can succeed, just like anything else.  He is learning
his craft.  This wasn't a great game for him tonight but he's understanding
the game better, at least from where we sit.

Pretty clearly the emphasis in these last two games has been on
coupling the inside game with the outside game, and largely it has worked,
though again these teams aren't powerhouses. 

The emphasis which will come out of this game will likely be
interior defense.  Almost no one plays the classic Princeton offense
anymore, but a lot of people understand that the natural tradeoff for
overplaying passing lanes, which Duke does, is  a hard cut to the
basket.  That will have to be addressed. 

Now the team is off to California for the Wooden Classic, where
they'll see USC, who lost to UNC in Hawaii.  This is an athletic team, more
so than we expected.  It'll be interesting to see if Duke can put together
a strong defensive performance with a good inside attack.  USC got on the
boards a lot against UNC, and the young players will have to play sharp to keep
them away.

Notes - the worst stat of the night....17 turnovers..how does
that happen vs. Columbia? ...despite the impending Holiday, the Crazies were in
excellent form tonight, coming up with cheers for the towel boy, "start the
subway," and a number of others...Jason's rebounding has come back to earth
- after NY, he was leading rebounder...on the radio, Johnny Dawkins said Horvath
was the biggest surprise...score one for Quotin' Bob who said he would
be...there was one fairly stunning pass sequence - Williams on the left, to
Sanders, who dumped off to Dunleavy under the basket, who passed back to C-well
- it was too much, but the ball movement was gorgeous, and in about a 12 foot
circle..not bad...