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There were a lot of great things to say about tonight's game, but the most
impressive thing, in many respects, was Jason Williams.  Not only did he
have 19 points on 8-12 shooting, and 5 assists to 2 turnovers, and a number of
eyepopping fast breaks, he did all that with a stomach that he said "wasn't
my biggest fan tonight."  

Could've fooled us.  It's like his jammed finger, maybe - someone give
him some bad, food, please! Mangle a digit! Just kidding, but the most
impressive aspect of his performance tonight was ball pressure. We're not sure,
but he was directly responsible for either 3 or possibly 4 five second calls in
the first half.  Our guess is that no one formally tracks that stat, but
that that's a record, on some level, at least for a half.  

Of course his ball pressure wouldn't work nearly as well if his teammates
weren't backing him up, and they really backed him up, as Duke caused 14
turnovers in the first half (21 for the game), including one 10 second call,
Jason's numerous five second calls, and one shot clock violation where FSU took
the ball out of bounds 3 times, after Duke knocked it out of bounds, thus
resetting, and still couldn't hit the rim before the shot clock went off.

FSU's starters only scored 25 points in the game, and Robinson kept shuttling
the bench in. Nigel Dixon (more on him later) had 10 points, which was very
impressive for a near 400 pounder who really can't run very fast at all.

It's hard to really single people out in a lot of ways - Nate James deserves
a lot of credit for the passion he brings to a game.  He has made it clear
now that he plays like the Marine's son he is - flat-out hard.  Battier and
Carrawell deserve a lot of credit for leading this team, but when James runs
after a loose ball when the team is up by 25, it's inspiring. 

Carrawell had a solid game, bouncing back from what appeared to be tired legs
recently, though he might have had the bug that is going around Battier had a
touch of it, but seems to have shaken it off, and was quite aggressive at times
tonight.  

Boozer shot 8-9 from the floor and popped out for  a jumper, which of
course opened things up for him to drive.  There's not a lot of players
left who know the middle game (C-well and Juan Dixon are exceptions), and if
Boozer starts doing this on a regular basis, he's a very dangerous player. 
Just as an example, if Brendan Haywood had to follow him out to 15, UNC's
defense would be vulnerable, but since they're playing a lot of zone, it won't
happen, of course.  A more interesting prospect is NC State.  With Ron
Kelley still out, it would be interesting to pull Thornton out and see how he
would react if Boozer drove.  

Matt Christensen continues to show improvement, which is great. He's a
hard-working guy, and you want to see it pay off for him.  

Dunleavy didn't shoot well at all - 1-6 - but he had some phenomenal,
brilliant passes.  More on that in a bit.

Horvath and Sanders got a fair amount of time tonight (11 and 13 minutes
respectively), and both of them continue to show flashes.  Horvath with
some muscle will start to remind people of Googs.  He's not that confident
yet, which is understandable considering that this time last year he was dunking
over a lot of pasty 5-11 Scandinavians in Minnesota.

If you just started watching today, you'd think that Casey Sanders is a
slight, swift, gifted guy who doesn't know a lot about hoops yet.  That
says a lot about how far he has come, because he has improved dramatically over
the course of the season, though most of the progress is invisible to people who
don't see him daily (that doesn't include us, but we're basing this on
pre-season until now).  Though he still looks skinny, he's clearly become a
great deal stronger since the summer.  At that point, he barely had the
nerve to put a rebound back up.  He's not making them yet, but when we
first saw him, he was too intimidated to even try.  That's over. He's
strong enough now to go up and he's learning how to do it.  It's not
visible progress, as we said, but that, along with little things like how he
boxes out, show us that the weight program they're using, while it hasn't made
him look  like Charles Atlas, has nonetheless made him a great deal
stronger.

Now as to Nigel Dixon - the crowd got on him, which wasn't the worst thing in
the world - someone in high school ordered pizza for him during a game, which
cracked him up. He seems to be a well-adjusted guy who is comfortable with
himself.  Now think about this: at at least 380, the guy is slow end to
end, but he's nimble.  It's a bizarre analogy, but he's kind of like a
bigger Lonny Baxter - a terrifying thought.  If he gets serious about
conditioning - and they've cut a fair amount of weight off him already - he
could be a monster. What would this guy be like if he got down to Tractor
Traylor range - say 315? He may never be the quickest guy from one basket to the
other, but if he turns his weight into muscle, he's a potentially devastating
weapon.

Last time we talked a lot about the crowd performance.  This time it was
a lot better, and certainly the Crazies were much, much better. 
Nonetheless, it amazes us that people don't take every seat in the
bleachers.  You'll never, ever get a chance again to sit this close to a
great sporting event, unless you pay thousands of dollars.  It's probably
easy to say, well it's just FSU, but still.  What a wasted
opportunity. 

It's particularly wasted because last night saw some of the greatest plays in
Cameron in years, from Jason's stunning fake pass to James, to the three man
break from Dunleavy to James to Williams for they layup, to another similar
break ending in a Cwell layup.  And for lovers of great defense,  it
would be hard to top the first half.  The Crazies who came performed well
and cleverly, and with passion - and that's all that anyone can ask.  This
group has a unique experience - like Cwell, they haven't lost at home in four
years, except to Maryland,  and have seen regular season championships for
3 straight years, and 4 is within reach.    Maybe it's hard not
to be blase.  Our roots are in more bitter times, when Duke struggled and
was an also-ran, at best, and rather than winning 17 straight road games, didn't
win any for years at a time.  Look, these are good times.  It's easy
to be casual about it, maybe. The only thing we'll say is that since Coach K has
always seen the Crazies as part of the team, we hope they'll live up to that privilege.  
For the seniors, there are only 3 games left.  We hope you guys realize
you'll never get this opportunity again.  As you've probably seen, if you
read the board here, a lot of former Crazies would give their firstborn to be
back there again.

Anyway, credit where credit is due - the students in the stands were great
tonight.  Upstairs was somewhat better, and we got some mail after last
time to point out some things we hadn't considered, like one guy who comes from
Richmond and had a kid he needed to get home. 

Fair enough, and a good point.

Still, there are a lot of people who feel comfortable coming in 7-8 minutes
into the game and chatting on the way to their seats, and way too many people
who leave with 1/4 of the game to go.  It's your choice, but you're missing
a lot, and we can't help but remember Coach K's comment on that a few years ago
- "I wanted to throw up."

It's a similar reaction we had in 95 as the hangers-on abandoned the team.
Those of us who stayed - upstairs and down - found out pretty quickly who the
fans were and who jumped off the bandwagon.  We know that most of you are
hardcore fans, and that's the kind of fan we identify with.  Let's just
make it better.

Notes - Sanders vs. Dixon is amazing...at one point, Sanders had to actually,
literally, run around Dixon...he was the center of the Crazies attention, but to
his credit, he played great...Dixon cheers...big Dixon, little Dixon! ...Please
don't eat me...Hey hey hey...from Fat Albert...Steve Robinson was visually
frustrated, at one point walking so far to the end of the bench he almost left
the court...Coach K wore a sportsjacket and a black shirt, no doubt because
Cameron was so hot...consider this...a guy puts in 20 years for you, raises the
University's profile dramatically, improves even the quality of applicants - and
he asks for an airconditioned workplace...how can you say no? It's a small
enough request considering how much he's done...in attendance tonight - Phil
Henderson and Brian Davis...it was good to see the Crazies back in form...Ron
Hale has never - never - hit double figures against Duke...

*****

Hitman Checks In!

There was a fun atmosphere all around the game last night in
Cameron. Duke came out ready to play, especially on the defensive end, and
quickly took over the game. Boozer in particular came out strong, and had
the crowd roaring early with a powerful breakaway dunk. Duke rapidly built
a double-digit lead, and that's when the real fun began. There were more
highlight quality plays in this game than I can remember in a long time.
And most, if not all, centered around Jason Williams, who arguably played
his best game ever as a Blue Devil. It started with Jason and Nate on a
two on one breakaway, where Jason had everyone sold on the pass, and then
instead took the ball back and executed a half-windmill dunk that really had
the crowd flying. Subsequently, Nate and Jason had yet another two on one,
and Jason broke out one of the other Jason Williams' (of the Sacramento
Kings) moves, where he throws a one arm pass, but at the last minute curls
his hand back around the ball, bringing it back into his body. The defender
bought the fake hook line and sinker, and Jason scored the easy lay-up.
Jason's heroics didn't end on the offensive side of the ball. He was
tenacious on defense, forcing two five second calls (along with another one
that I think the refs missed), and one ten second call. He put constant
pressure on the ball handler, did an excellent job of running through
screens, and only picked up one foul for the entire game.

In fact, every single one of our players had a solid night,
from the top six down to Casey, Nick and Matt. We showed amazing team
quickness and pressure on the defensive end - at times I swear it looked
like we had ten guys on the floor to their five. That return to "true"
Duke defense was really the key to the game, as we completely frustrated
whatever offensive plans FSU had set up, and as a result, we were up by over
twenty going into the second half.

The second half featured even more Showtime-esque plays. Mike
Dunleavy began a beautiful sequence with a bullet of a bounce pass from half
court, through three defenders, into the hands of a streaking Nate James.
The defense then collapsed on Nate, who calmly fed the ball across the lane
to a wide-open Jason Williams, who finished with an under the basket reverse
lay-up. Needless to say, all bedlam broke loose in the stands. The capper
on the night was a fabulous, behind the back pass by Jason Williams to Mike
Dunleavy in the lane. But it didn't end there, as Mike knew he was covered,
and decided to deflect the pass with one hand (without catching it) to an
open Boozer, who finished with a two handed slam dunk. The resulting motion
was pure ballet - I cannot wait to see the different angles on Sportscenter.
All five of our starters were in double figures with about five minutes left
to go in the game, and the walk-ons basically finished the game out from
there, with JD Simpson nailing the critical 100th point on a free throw with
nine seconds left. About the only two negatives you can bring out of this
game were poor free throw shooting as a team, and the fact that Boozer had
three fouls in the first half, and quickly got his fourth. Both might have
been bigger issues had we been playing a tougher opponent.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the antics of the
Crazies though, who were funnier tonight than they have been in a while.
It began with a chant of "Hale no" when Ron Hale was at the free throw line.
Then when Nigel Dixon checked into the game, the entire crowd synchronized
their jumping, resulting in a "Boom, boom, boom" effect. Dixon was the
target of many a derisive cheer last night, including, "Don't eat Jason",
"Hey hey hey (from Fat Albert)", "Eric Cartman", "Big Dixon, little Dixon"
, and "Please don't eat me". I've got to give credit to Nigel though; he
dealt with the taunts admirably, and is a much better player than I had
suspected. He has surprisingly soft hands for such a big man, and
consistently scored on second chance opportunities. For a kid who has
probably had to deal with people teasing and mocking him all his life, he
plays with a great deal of heart and energy - you just have to respect that.

At one point in the second half, Steve Robinson was so
disgusted with his starting unit that he sent in five substitutes at once,
clearing the whole floor. This prompted a cheer of "Bad team, bad team"
from the Crazies. Five minutes later, when the starting five were brought
back in another wholesale change, they were greeted with a chant of "Oh no,
not the starters" - a classic. The crowd also broke out the Gator chomp on
a few occasions, and the traditional "Stick to football" cheer.

All in all it was a well-rounded game. The Crazies were witty
and maintained a decent level of volume all game long, especially for a
Senior Day. My congratulations go out to those seniors who cheered hard
and made this the strongest Senior Day crowd in my memory here. The team
came out focused, especially on the defensive end, and we got everyone
involved in the game, as Casey, Nick and Matt all logged over ten minutes,
and very effective minutes at that. To paraphrase Shane Battier, "The
Crazies were crazy, we were up by thirty; everything was back to normal."