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Another Typical Duke-State Game



In case you hadn't noticed it, Duke-State games lately have developed an
interesting pattern: Duke tends to play stronger earlier, State appears to get
discouraged, then, late in the game, they charge back and make it a serious
contest.  It's like your nightmare, your little brother realizing suddenly
yes he can play at your level, and he's going to do it - maybe next time.

And you get one more reprieve.

Part of the reason, we're belatedly realizing, why we hold State in higher
esteem than some other folks do, is because we're always impressed with their
effort.  We have a hard time understanding how Duke-State can be so
passionate, and then State can turn around and go to, say, Clemson, and just lay
an egg.  After watching these two teams play, you know that State is good
enough, talented enough, not to just make the NCAAs but to make a

So what gives? Why can't they manage to play this hard and passionately on a
consistent level? When you see Scooter Sherrill do some of the things he did
tonight, and Wilkins, and Grundy, you can't help but be impressed.  

As you probably know by now, Duke pushed their way out to a considerable lead
tonight, up at 19 at one point, before State started chipping away. At about
8:00 to go, it was clear, to us anyway, that they were threatening, and that
Duke wasn't being careful enough or aggressive enough, to hold the very athletic
Pack off.

Up until that point, Duke played very well. For part of the game, it again
looked like a clinic - three pointers, good solid defense, forcing State into
unpleasant scenarios, frustrating the easily frustrated - Thornton and Inge. 
Len Elmore was filling/killing time and invited David Thompson over to
reminisce.    On the court, the big blue machine was in high
gear, blasting past State, taking the ball away, treating them like a pesky kid

And then the change happens which seems to happen in almost all Duke-State
games lately, the switch went off, and State made their now almost traditional
gallant charge, and almost traditionally, while scary, it wasn't enough.

During that part of the game, Duke got special efforts from both Jason
Willliams and Chris Duhon. Jason, who was shut out in the first half, took over,
with one absolute monster dunk right down the middle of the lane, and eight foul shots
in the last 48 seconds to seal the deal.  Duhon had several critical plays,
including a three pointer to blunt State's momentum and drawing a critical foul
on Grundy.

One of the other things which has impressed us a lot about State in recent
years is just how physical they are, and again, we wonder why it seems more
evident in Duke games. Again, on a number of plays and occasions, State's talent
seemed almost overwhelming - red blurs flying downcourt, darting, leaping,
astonishing at times, really.

Then, an unwise foul. A foolish three pointer. Lost opportunities.  And
while Duke-State games have had thrilling endings recently, the mistakes have
been made mostly by State, while Duke has usually made the smarter moves to put
the game away in crunch time.

In a more general sense, while the end of the game was not Duke's best
moments of the season, there were a lot of good things to point to in this game.
Matt Christensen gave some quality minutes in the first half.  Chris Duhon
continues to play beyond his years. After a mediocre offensive first  half,
which Coach K called "the worst half of his career,"  Jason Williams took over and hit for
22 in the second, and really dominated the
last few minutes.  Battier had a hot hand and, predictably, played
excellent defense.  For part of the game, Carlos Boozer played very well,
but for part of the game his game fell off, and that was almost a terminal
problem.  Fouling out, Duke left the inside pretty open, but unlike the
Stanford game, defended fairly well despite being undersized.

Duke was outrebounded badly by State, 47-33, with 22 offensive boards to
Duke's 10.

State seems destined for controversial officiating this season. After the UVa
game, there was a long delay in the last minute to figure out what happened to
the clock and how to reset it after it apparently didn't run while Duke had the
ball.  We don't believe in blaming losses on the officiating, with a couple
of exceptions: 1) failure of the officials to control the game, and 2) an
absolutely critical blown call late in the game. This didn't meet that criteria,
but it might have under slightly different circumstances.

All things considered, Duke was definitely pushed at the end of the game, but
until State learns how to capitalize on their opportunities, they'll continue to
come up short when they could be making big breakthroughs. And Duke needs to
figure out how to avoid letting State catch on to the fact that a loss is not
inevitable.  So far they don't seem to get that.

A fairly amazing statistic: over the last 51 regular season ACC games, Duke
is 49-2.  That's just unheard of.  No one does that. With UVa coming
to town this weekend, they have a shot at 50-2, a record which may stand for