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Duke Horns In On Texas, 95-69 (1003 AM)


In the first half of the Texas game, Duke basically put the game almost out
of reach on the foul line: the stats for field goals and 3 point goals were
almost identical right down to attempts, but Duke, no doubt remembering Rick
Barnes' physical style from his Clemson days, got to the line 18 times in the
first half and made 16.  That's pretty much the 18 point halftime lead
right there. We discussed this previously when looking
ahead a bit to Illinois.
  We predicted they'd take out Arizona. Not
quite, but very close.

The big difference, though, free throws aside, was Duke's defensive
intensity.  Defense, particularly interior defense, was identified by
pretty much everyone including no-nothings like us as a  key problem in the
Princeton and Villanova games.  Not perimeter defense - most of the 49
turnovers in those games were forced outside (though Carlos had 5 steals against
Villanova).  Duke really cranked it up a notch in this game.  It's
fun watching K turn Williams and Duhon loose at the same time,
which to an
extent allows James, Dunleavy, Battier, and Boozer free to roam and pick off
long passes.  Coach K says that Jason is the best for ball pressure, but
without a backup couldn't really reach his potential last season.

The other obvious thing was Nate James' big game.  He was pretty
amazing, hitting for 26, playing tough defense, and not a single turnover. 
Chances are pretty good that Rick Barnes wasn't expecting that. 

And Jason Williams played  brilliant floor game, finding for the first
time this season a way to integrate his exuberant imagination into the flow of
the game.  In other words, he made the spectacular play without disrupting
the game.  Not an easy lesson to learn (it took Michael Jordan some time,
for instance), but he seems to have cracked it.

Probably a useful barometer of Duke's season will be how dominant Shane
Battier feels he needs to be.  In other words, if he feels he needs to
score 30 points to win, then things are not going so well.  If he has 2
points in the first half, like he did tonight, and Duke is humming, then things
are probably going well. Not to suggest he not attempt to score, but at the end
of the year, he was taking on too much. His teammates couldn't help him as much
as he needed them to. This season, they can and it may diminish his stats

Boozer also had a fairly solid game.  Out of the whole thing, though,
the one thing that jumped out at us the most was a gorgeous  outlet pass
from the lane to about half court.  We think Carlos has enormous potential,
but one reason for that is that he is incredibly well-grounded in the
fundamentals. You don't see many college players making that pass - it hasn't
been effectively taught for the most part - and you don't see many big men using
both hands at 18.  He also is learning to pop around his man to grab a

Mike Dunleavy had another game where he made a lot of really smart plays that
don't always show up. The alley-oop will, and the switch-hands-in-the-air layup
will, as will the first half drive, but a lot of what he does is one step ahead
- in other words, he moves the ball ahead a pass so that the next pass can get
to a scoring position, or he grabs a defensive rebound, heads downcourt, and
makes a subtle move which completely changes the geometry of the soon-to-be
recipient and the trajectory the defender must follow to either intercept the
pass or block the shot.  There's not a stat to measure that, but watch for
it.  It's really neat to see.

Duhon again showed a lot of savvy and lot of very smart plays.  We
continue to be impressed with his game.

Sanders got more playing time tonight (24 minutes), both before and after the game was
blown open, and he played with more intensity and intelligence than he showed
against Villanova.  Nick Horvath also returned from injury, giving Duke
back an eight man rotation.  He was still not 100%, but you could see
flashes of why people are saying he's radically better than last season.

In a nutshell, this was just a nice, solid game, filled with rugged defense,
good breaks, aggressive moves to the basket, and a bit of mustard, but in the
right places, like Dunleavy's alleyoop to Boozer, or his behind the back pass,
or Jason's two big-time fakes for layups, one for himself, and one for a

What's more interesting is that Texas is not a particularly horrible team.
They're pretty good, actually, though young, and obviously trying to replace a
dominant player in Chris Mihm, who defected to the NBA.  They do have some
talent, and Barnes has proved he knows how to coach against K, having a 5-4
record, with three of those losses coming in Shane Battier's freshman year,
including William Avery's remarkable follow in the ACC tournament to preserve a
victory.  Clearly this guy knows how to coach against K.  But not

In a footnote, Dick Vitale repeated his assertion that Chris Carrawell had
"dropped out" of Duke.
That's not quite right,
as we said previously. It'd be nice if Vitale did
some legwork on this.

Notes - Duke limited Texas to .394% from the floor...the starting frontcourt
shot a collective 4-16.....add Boddicker and it was 7-27...Duke ended up taking
34 free throws to 19 for Texas...Andre Sweet got some PT at home and in front of the home
folks...Temple, who Duke sees Friday in the finals, had only 6 turnovers against
IU..that's either indicative of poor defense from the Hoosiers or that Temple
has done a masterful job replacing last year's superb point guard Pepe
Sanchez....Casey started putting himself in position to block shots tonight and
therefore in position to win a lot of was nice to hear Vitale
praise Al Featherston and Bill Brill on the air...both are first-rate
sportswiters and deserve more attention...this is one reason why we're glad the
Herald-Sun finally went online...John Sanders startled us a bit when he said his
favorite Duke player ever was Danny Meaghar, but we forgot he was a
Canadian...can you name another Duke Canadian besides Greg Newton?....on a
similar note, Vitale got weird with that People Magazine riff but Sanders reeled
him back in...out of the locker room, Duke made 8 out of their first 9 shots....