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Devils Win K's 500th, Down Villanova In Tough One

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Coach K got his 500th career win at Duke, but it wasn't particularly easy as
Villanova kept coming the whole night and despite 29 turnovers, was within 9
points at about the two minute mark and clearly confident.  So what
happened? How does one team force 29 turnovers and not blow the other away, and
how does the other stay alive?

Well in the beginning it was because Duke would press Villanova on inbounds
plays, and when it worked it worked great. Problem was, when Villanova beat the
press, they got easy shots within 10 feet of the basket -  quite often
closer - hence their first half FG percentage was very nearly 70%. You don't get
that on three pointers too often.  We're not basketball geniuses, but our
guess is the helpside defense isn't where it should be. This happened against
Princeton for a time, too, as the backdoor was wide open. 

Michael Bradley proved to be an effective, if somewhat awkward player, but
again, he benefited from poor interior defense by Duke.  This guy is a
solid player, don't get us wrong, but he's not so great that he should score so
much and so easily.  It was partly to his credit and Duke was partly to
blame.  Here's another indication: they missed 18 shots and got 11
offensive rebounds.  That's pretty darn good.  Battier switched to
guard him periodically and he did reasonably well against Shane, too.

As we said, Duke did well when pressing, until the Wildcats broke it, and at
that point the defense wasn't strong.  Fortunately, the offense was pretty
good.

In the first half, Boozer was very solid, scoring we think the first 8 points
for Duke. Inside defense aside for now, he also was credited with5 steals, and
at least two in the press.  Jason Williams had a superb floor game with 10
assists to 3 turnovers. Several were quite the crowd pleasers, meaning that he
can be both creative and responsible with the ball. Periodically he has gotten
carried away and tried to do too much. Tonight he was the model of leadership,
even shaking off an ankle injury and coming back in.  At the end of the
game, he had several key plays to break Villanova's momentum.   In
many respects, one of his better games.

Dunleavy broke out at times tonight, making a couple of slashing moves to the
basket, some wonderful passes, and shooting very well.

Battier played his usually smart game, and Nate James was solid and offered
great leadership at times, including a tremendous follow at one point when 'Nova
was threatening.

The only bench player to get significant time was Chris Duhon, and he had
some spectacular moments, including the half-time ending J which was play of the
day material.  A lot of you have suggested nicknames for Duhon, but after
that shot, we have one nomination: the Dagger.

Casey Sanders got some minutes but came out when he left the inside open to
the Villanova attack.

Duke also shot 28 foul shots to Villanova's 15, which is interesting on two
fronts: 1) the traditional advantage Duke enjoys by getting to the line more
than their opponents, and 2) the uneven way the officials called this
game.  We have a general policy of not criticizing officials, and we try to
stick to it, but in tonight's game there were several key issues: 

1) where was the emphasis on cleaning the game up tonight?  There was
some brutal play in this game, not just under the basket but all over the
court.  Witness the pick which almost knocked Jason Williams into next
week, and another play where he stole the ball and was buffeted by two Villanova
players on the way downcourt.  2) several times the trailing official made
calls under the basket, where much of the rough play occurred, which makes you
wonder where the lead official's head was.  One one play, Battier was
shoved to the ground, and Boozer was called for the foul.  3) the
calls were inconsistent.  The Boozer call is a good example, but the
officials were all over the place. The players couldn't have possibly gotten a
feel for what the officials wanted.

To us that is really important.  The key responsibility for these guys
is to control the game.  We can accept mistakes, and even overly aggressive
calls, but when they don't assert themselves properly, players can be in danger.

At the end of the game, Duke had pulled away, up by 17, and unfortunately
didn't put Villanova away.  Jason Williams came through big time with
several key plays to keep them at bay when they were rallying.  Really in
many ways, this was one of his best performances at Duke. He led the team, took
care of the ball, fought through pain and injury and triumphed. Not a bad
night's work.

After the game, there was a ceremony for Coach K's 500th win at Duke. 
The court was named the Coach K court, and Nan Keohane and Joe Alleva had some
nice comments. Then the assistants pulled the cover off the new floor
marker.  Coach K talked at length and stressed the importance of family,
talking about how great his has been to him, both the one he and Mickie created
and the one he was born into. He talked a lot about how he loves Duke and
Cameron and the fans, and of course his players.  It was a moving ceremony
and more introspection was offered than usual.  He introduced his brother
and spoke about how he wished his parents could have lived to see this. 
The performance, though promising in many areas,  wasn't perfect (and he
reminded his team of that), but the ceremony could hardly have been better.

Fashion patrol: Dahntay Jones lacked his elegance of the last game's cream
suit, and went for understated tonight.  Horvath continues to dress
casually.

Notes - several people commented on the tight rotation...part of that is
because Nick Horvath is injured, obviously, but he changes the rotation a lot
since he can come in for any of the frontline positions for at least short
bursts and is good for, we would expect, 15-20 minutes a game....that
versatility also opens things up for Sanders and Christensen, who can both be
counted on for short performances but not always longer ones yet....Sweet isn't
ready to contribute yet in a game of this magnitude....the Crazies were really
good tonight - you guys were super actually...the only down spot came when the
announcer was trying to announce the groundbreaking of the football building
tomorrow and the Crazies started calling for Crazy Towel Guy....the kids can be
forgiven, but it frankly sucked that CTG stood up and the resulting cheers
drowned out the thanks to the people who are making this remarkable facility
possible...next time maybe Herb could sit down for a couple of minutes, let his
ego take a break, and let someone who has actually earned some applause get
it....these people deserved to be thanked for some meaningful contributions and
they were denied that simple courtesy by a grown man whose main claim to fame
is  waving  a towel in a circle....