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Duke Steps On The Heels, Goes To 15-1 In ACC (1137 AM)

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Dunk Video
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Time Over
Killed Em


We went over to Cameron early Saturday to soak up some atmosphere and gauge
the mood.  The mood was evident pretty early, as we could hear the crowd
outside Cameron from the farthest parking lot on Wannamaker - the unpaved one.

We hooked up with James and cruised around Kville a bit, catching up to
TieGuy, Tent 84, and Aaron Hodges, among others. Mike Gminski was hanging out,
and a guy who looked uncannily like that 90210 guy was there, too.  The
hairpainting was going on everywhere, and we realized that in one way, Cameron
and the Dean Dome are very much alike: in both arenas, the Blue Hairs have the
best seat.

Inside Cameron the atmosphere was pretty near euphoric.  The crowd was
packed in tight, and when senior intros commenced, starting with the managers,
the passion level went up. Before Chris Carrawell was called, the lights went
down, and just like in the old days, in an era most fans today have no knowledge
of, the lights went down and spotlights illuminated center court, and Cwell
trotted out and soaked in the applause, then went back to the bench and brought
his mom out, too, and they turned to all four corners of the ancient arena and
waved at each.  It's hard to describe the outpouring.  Every year
seniors get a loving sendoff - Hurley's was very memorable, and so was Gene
Banks', and of course Grant's senior moment was amazing, though the game was a
letdown, and Trajan is one of the most respected players in Duke history, and
his moment last year was impressive, to say the least.

None were as emotional as today's, in our opinion.  Carrawell is a
unique figure in Duke history, a guy who fought his way out of a situation which
either kills or cripples or chronically depresses most people who have to deal
with it.  Not Cwell.  You have to have imagination and guts to fight
yourself out of the situation he was in, and he has it - and so does his mom,

This was all before the game started, of course.  The first two minutes
or so were a slugfest, with either nerves or tough defense dictating the game,
or both.  But then Duke shot out to an 8-0 lead before UNC picked it up and
crept back into it, though they never took the lead.

Then Cota got his face opened, and the game, for all intents and purposes,
was over.  One quick sequence told the tale: Williams went in for a layup
on a break, then stole the ball, and hit another layup. Then Duke stole the ball
again and Battier passed off for another layup.

That was pretty much it  - the rest of the game was Duke pushing the
lead out to the 15-20 point range, and UNC struggling to get it closer to 12
(they got it to 9 at one point). Every time they cut it down, Duke ran it back
out. We heard a UNC fan saying after the game that his team shot 69% in the
second half and still couldn't get it done.  That is pretty amazing when
you think about it, because Duke was playing some pretty good defense.

As always in a Duke-UNC game, there are memorable plays and moments.  In
this one, we saw a few really dumb plays - Lang's drive and charge being perhaps
the dumbest. Everone in the gym knew he was going to run over Boozer, and Boozer
just waited for it to happen.

In more positive terms (at least for Duke fans), there were a number of
wonderful plays - first of all that previously mentioned sequence. Secondly,
Boozer had a sensational block late in the game. Third, Nate James hit a falling
down, falling out of bounds 3 that made it clear that no matter what, UNC wasn't
going to come back this time. Fourth, try Cwell's breakaway dunk at the end.

Watching these teams this year is really interesting because UNC, though they
are clearly not what they once were, still possess an offensive genius (you can
take that as a pun if you must) in Ed Cota. Among the great plays of this game,
and one of the candidates for play of the day, was his spectacular, no-look,
over his shoulders relay to Haywood.  You can't fake that kind of genius
for passing.  It was remarkable.  Cota makes his teammates much more
deadly, though they are not as gifted as his earlier targets, Jamison and
Carter.  When you have a guy who passes like that, even a stiff like Serge
Zwikker is deadly. 

And no matter what anyone says, Brendan Haywood is still 7 feet tall and big
as a house.  He had several dunks today, but he also tried to launch two
medium distance jumpers, one from the right side of the lane, about 12 feet out
in the second half, and he walked, and the other in the first, where he turned,
about 10 feet from the basket, and threw up a shot which came down like a
wounded duck - hard, ugly, and dying fast.

Between those two considerable forces, they have Kris Lang, who will be an
excellent player once he gets extended rest and repetitions, Jason Capel, who
would have been as good as Matt Doherty was were his teammates at the same level
(he's a complimentary player, not a star, but on this team he has to do too
much), and the wondrous Joseph Forte, who is truly gifted.

Yet consider this:  out of 55 total shots, Forte took 20. Capel took 10,
Haywood took 7, Lang and Cota took 5, and Peppers took four. Newby took 3.

In UNC's system, it's bizarre for a freshman to account for that much of the
offense. Traditionally, it would be built from inside-out, with Haywood and Lang
punishing the inside, and then opening things up for Forte. Instead, Forte is
forced to freelance. and to take over far more of the offense in that system
than a freshman is supposed to.

So why is it that with two quality big guys and a master passer, UNC is
relying on Forte? We're sure other ACC coaches understand this, and we have our
suspicions, but we're hardly experts.

The defense is a different issue. Before the season, Gut promised to go back
to traditional UNC pressures and traps and the like, but it quickly became clear
that this team wouldn't be able to maintain it physically and in fact has
periodic gaps in their concentration on both ends.  For instance at the
end, when Duke was just running out the clock, Capel came out to press Williams,
and he hoped, trap him in the top left corner, next to a lucky reporter. 
However, his teammate - we think Forte - didn't join him. Capel had to turn and
wave the kid to join him in pressing, and it took him a few seconds to
understand what was being asked of him.  At that point he did, but by then
precious time had gone off, and of course Jason knew what was coming and so had
made other arrangements.

For Duke, though they won, there are other concerns.  Though Battier has
responded magnificently in recent games,  overall Duke shot well under 50%,
and UNC, despite their problems, certainly defended the inside well, blocking a
number of shots and forcing Duke to rely on outside shooting for the most part,
which, fortunately, worked.

However, today, none of it mattered.  Duke overcame their weaknesses,
and UNC didn't.  As a result, Duke has now gone 46-2 in the ACC for the
last 3 seasons, and prospects are good for that level of success, more or less,
to continue.  Cwell will be missed, of course, and terribly, but Dunleavy
will be a major force, and Sweet can pick up a lot of the dirty work, and
Horvath and Sanders should be bulked up (along with Dunleavy), and then there's
Duhon.  So while they'll lose one of Duke's all time great players, and an
all-time favorite, their depth should be dramatically improved.

There are a lot of things to say about this game, but one we don't want to
overlook was Matt Christensen's brilliant play at the end of the first half. He
was huge.

After the game, Cwell came back out and spoke, as seniors always do at Duke
on senior day, talking about how lucky he was, and how much he appreciated all
that had happened to him.  He closed by saying that while last year Trajan
had asked the Crazies to send him out with a Go To Hell Carolina chant, he
couldn't say that because his mom was there, but he figured that everyone knew
the cheer, and they could do it anyway. They obliged him, and he walked back
through the crowd, which wanted him to linger, and wanted to touch him, to keep
some small part of him in Cameron, and he, and his teammates, walked off amid
cheers for the winningest player in ACC competition in history.

We'll not see his like again anytime soon, so thank you, Cwell. You've been
magnificent, and watching you grow up has been an amazing experience for Duke
fans. We'll be watching you in the NBA and beyond.

After the game, we walked around to the bus, where we saw Bill Guthridge,
alone in the front seat, staring out over Wade. The players body language, to
us, was depressed - one sat with his back to the window, his hands wrapped
around his head, another looked down and didn't raise his head at all. Only
Forte actually looked out the window, waving at someone he saw.  Jason
Capel was the last Tar Heel on the bus, and as soon as he got on, the bus pulled
away into the darkening evening to return to an equally depressed Chapel Hill.
UNC may well win the rematch, if both teams make it that far, but that would just mean that in the last six
games Duke leads 5-1, and in fact might do Duke a favor, giving them an extra
day of rest to get ready for the NCAAs.

Notes - several times the Crazies chanted "Jeff was better" at
Jason one point, Jeff, who was sitting in the Duke section behind the
bench/scoreboard, egged them on...the Capels are a combined 1-14 in the rivalry
now, with Jeff winning once, so maybe the Crazies have a point...when Cota
fouled, they chanted "guilty" at him and waved pictures of an apparent
mugshot when he went to the line...he missed, badly...the Crazies, all things
considered, put on one of the best performances we've seen in years and years
and years....magnificent...there's an excellent chance these teams will meet in
the semis of the ACC...Dunleavy did dress but of course didn't play...Coach K
stopped on the way in and put his arm around Phil Ford and spoke to him
privately and warmly...we thought at first it might be about his ongoing
struggle, but later we learned that Ford is having serious hip pain, much like
Coach K did, and that may well have been what they were discussing...former
Dukies spotted in the crowd - Phil Henderson, Capel, Brickey, Henderson, G-man,
Jack Marin, Steve Gray...We haven't said nearly enough about the Feb-March play of Shane Battier...he has been absolutely of the great stretches of ball in Duke history...also, for Gut to put in his scrubs so that C-well could come out...that is something all Duke fans should appreciate...