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Barry's take on San Diego State

Barry Buckalew submitted this review of the San Diego State game:

I made the trip down to Cameron from Baltimore for the San Diego State game, and was
fortunate enough to have a bleacher seat directly behind the Duke bench. The beauty of
being at a game is getting to see all the things the TV doesn't show - to those in a

First, I think this was a great game for the Devils to play, because for a 'break' game,
it took some effort from everyone to pull out the win - some people had to step up, on
the court and off. With Sanders out sick (no one at the game knew where he was at the
time), Boozer in some foul trouble, the Crazies less represented than usual, and a
determined and unintimidated Aztec team, rhythms were definitely thrown off.

The weak crowd was obviously something the coaching staff planned for. As the starters
huddled before opening tip, every bench player got together in their own huddle, and
they were clearly getting everyone ready to support the players on the floor. It was
great to see. Wojo even stuck his head in and gave some animated instructions. The
bench guys worked hard all game, getting loud and giving encouragement to everyone
playing, and especially when they came off the floor. It's a hint as to the
relationships we don't see on the team when a guy who never sees playing time makes
direct comments to a starter at a break, giving constant support, and it happens quite a

Interestingly, while Jones and Ewing had decent games, it was evident from where I sat
that they were both a little out of synch, and it illustrates how difficult this offense
is to fit into for someone coming in their first year. As fluid as it can look when
everyone's on, more than once, a play actually stopped until one of them got into
position. On a play late in the game, in particular, as Boozer posted up, Jones was
clearly supposed to cut to his side under the basket but didn't, and Boozer knew he
wasn't getting the ball because Dahntay wasn't in the right spot. He began yelling
"Dahntay, Dahntay", and then Coach K joined in, and only when Jones make the full
cut did the pass from the backcourt get made.

And this was a learning game for Ewing. Daniel got a little fancy more than once, and
at the first under 12:00 timeout, in a gym already quiet, most of us could clearly
hear Coach K let him know what he thought in no uncertain terms. He was screaming
questions, but they were clearly rhetorical! Daniel just weathered the storm until K
took a breath, and then confronted the entire starting lineup - screaming "What in the
Sam Hill are you doing out there?" ("Sam Hill" inserted for a G rating), while looking
each player directly in the eye, one after the other. The pause after the tirade was
agonizing, it seemed like everyone was holding their breath. He finally grabbed a
clipboard and drew up a play. I think everyone was paying attention...!

One thing I can tell you, no matter how many times Coach K or anyone else suggests that
"it's only a game", by mid-first half, that man had ME willing to take a bullet for him
or anyone on that team. His intensity is ferocious, and every one of those guys was
charged with carrying out his will personally on the court. It's incredible to watch -
I know the players look at the bench at every stoppage of play, but I hadn't realized
that Coach himself calls a play almost every time. He's in complete control. And even
when a play doesn't need to be called, the players are checking his face and his
demeanor. Checking his reaction to a mistake, his opinion on a call, everything. He
dictates so much of what happens on the court. What a master.

Some quick notes:

  • Crazy Towel Guy did his best, called upon once each half to try to get the non-student
    crowd a little riled, but it was a tough task.
  • Only three times did the crowd come close to the usual Cameron noise level, and each
    time was a Christenson play. He was crucial to surviving that game.
  • Does Boozer have a little brother? I saw a youngster sitting next to what I think
    were the Boozers who looked an awful lot like a little Carlos!
  • Dunleavy probably could temper his outward dissatisfaction on the court when he's
    displeased with a teammate - at least a couple times, I'm not so sure the teammate
    deserved the ire (Ewing faked him out on a cut in the second half and Dunleavy threw it
    away, as an example).
  • Despite the tough game, we had dinner two booths away from Jones and Ewing and some
    friends, and they looked none the worse for wear!