There were some criticisms posted here and elsewhere about Duke's performance
against UVa, so we went back to review the videotape of the game to see
what we could see. For the first part of the game, Duke played great - no
turnovers, efficient offense, good defense. Then, apparently, youth got
the better of them, and UVa surged. There were a number of mistakes during
this stretch, basic fundamental misunderstandings and miscommunications - at one
point, for instance, on a fast break, two players retreated to guard one man
under the basket while a three point shot was uncontested. The shot
missed, but the rebound was put back. On another occasion, Jason Williams
dribbled into a knot of players from both teams and the ball was poked
away. On another occasion, Nate James drove and pushed off with his
forearm. Another time the baseline was given up and a UVa player got easy
penetration. If someone had been there to help, as help defense requires,
he would have been cut off sooner. On a couple of occasions, Jason
Williams played too far off of Donald Hand and he hoisted threes.
In a nutshell, for the middle part of the game, communication broke down and
some poor decisions were made. As a result, UVa's confidence soared, and
U-Hall was convinced an upset was about to take place, and they were celebrating
massively - and prematurely.
At the end of the second half, Cwell stepped up and first of all told his
teammates they were not going to lose, and secondly provided some solid
leadership on the court. As a result, Duke rallied from a 10 point deficit
in short order, put the game in overtime, and pulled away - from 10 points down
to 9 points up, or a 19 point turnaround. We didn't get to finish watching
last night, but UVa led by 10 fairly late in the second half, so a near 20 point
swing is very impressive.
So what gives? How can Duke be so good early, thoroughly mediocre in the
middle, and brilliant late? In a word, again, youth. This team starts a
freshman center and a freshman point, and their best benchplayer is a guy with a
very high basketball IQ but a very slender physique. They will have games
this year where they will play like freshman, and they'll have stretches within
games where they play like freshmen. That's entirely normal. What's
significant is that they listen. Cwell told them what was going to happen and
then showed them how to do it. 19 points later, it was a done deal. Duke won the
first ACC game of the season, the first road game of the season, and did so
under very adverse circumstances. And they did it while relying on three
freshman, and don't forget Battier fouled out.
Yes, there were a lot of mistakes, but they won the game and will learn from
it. Every road game will be tough, but in a sense, every road game will
also get easier. These guys have a real idea of the ACC now. Tomorrow they get
another dose. Our guess is that the mistakes have been reviewed and explained,
and that there will be less of them tomorrow.
One other thing, noted with great pleasure from the UVa game. Jason
Williams, among his other gifts, can cover huge chunks of the floor with a
dribble. He covered the distance from the bottom of the half-court circle
to the basket with two dribbles. One took him to the foul line, then a fake,
another dribble, and a shot. He missed, but that was impressive. On
another play, the ball came off the UVa rim, Williams, who was on the right side
of the court, turned to his right to catch it, started downcourt, took one
dribble, hit Cwell, who was streaking downcourt, who took one dribble, and
scored. 80% of the floor covered in two dribbles. We like that.
One of the things we admire about Coach K is how he can extract useful
lessons from failure. In this case, the lessons were applied during the game,
but they'll also be applied later as well.