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Duke Romps In The ESA

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Before the game, State's players were full of bravado, but a 10 minute
stretch of stifling defense and Mike Dunleavy's insane first half eruption
pretty much put an end to that as Duke, at times leading by nearly 30 points,
gave State's pups a spanking. Someone was going to make a point in this
game. Fortunately for Duke fans, the Devils gave the lesson, and State's ascent
is delayed, though certainly not terminated.

Duke's defense let up some in the second half, and that's certainly something
that will be discussed, we assume, but regardless, Duke took it to State in a
big way after the Pack matched Duke step for step in the early going. Both
Marcus Melvin and Julius Hodge were shut out, going a combined 0-11.
Before the game, Melvin said he had dreamed about hitting a shot in Dunleavy's
face, but that will have to wait.

At the beginning of the game, State was effective, at one point making two
steals in a row after scoring. But the last half of the first half (sorry) was
game, set, and match (sorry again).

Duke held State to two points over the last 10 minutes of the first half, and
Mike Dunleavy, basically, went nuts. He was hitting threes from everywhere,
scoring 15 in a row, was making sharp passes, rebounding, playing defense - you
name it, Dunleavy had as good a stretch as anyone at Duke has had recently. He
had 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in the first half
- that's sensational by any standard. Calling it a command performance
would probably be an understatement. It was astonishing. For one small measure,
he outscored State in the first half on his own, but a lot of that is due to
defense.

Not that his teammates were slacking. Though Jason Williams had a light
shooting night, he had a big hand in defending Hodge, and he had 10
assists. Chris Duhon was more aggressive than he has normally been this
season and pushed the ball. He also had a beautiful play where, after Anthony
Grundy stole it from him, he stole it back. No big deal in a sense, but a very
big deal in that it was a major hustle play. Grundy was off to the races, until
Duhon reached out and knocked the ball loose.

Dahntay Jones had one of his better games as well. It was a quiet game,
no particular flash except for one monster dunk, but what was sweet was first
his defense and second, his decision-making. Earlier he seemed to be forcing
things. Now, he seems to have evolved a role which fits well with the
others.

And lest we forget, Carlos Boozer also had an excellent game, with 22 points
and some hard-ass inside play. Kenny Smith kept complimenting his
fundamentals, and he is absolutely correct: Carlos is likely the most skilled
big man in the college game.

The bench didn't contribute that much statistically, which isn't that
surprising, considering Duke's recent history with State. We're basing
this on impression rather than research, but for the last several years, Duke
has , we seem to remember, gone with a tight rotation. We're not quite sure why,
and we could be wrong, too.

Overall, we were pretty impressed. State gave Duke a good shot at the
beginning, and Duke not only survived it but turned the tables and pretty
thoroughly discombobulated the Pack. In the second half, Josh Powell gave
State plenty to cheer about, but otherwise, about the most passion the State
crowd got into was when Jason shot an airball, and they delighted in the chant
every time he touched the game.

Whatever. State fans are incredibly passionate and devoted, but one would
hope they'd find something in their team to cheer for. They took a whipping
Sunday, but you also have to admire their grit and persistence. Duke pitched a
10 minute shutout and dominated in most aspects of the game, but State kept
coming hard. And while Hodge and Melvin were shut out, Josh Powell had a
huge second half. He is a very serious talent, and someone State can build
around. He's a really, really talented kid, and hard working as well.

Ok, now that State's out of the way, it's time to get ready for the Terps.
True story: the last two years, we had an extra ticket to the game in Cameron we
couldn't give away. After last year's sensational games, Duke That's
certainly not the case this year. It's one of the hottest tickets anywhere, and
Maryland wants revenge for last year. That's good; it means they are
thinking about failure.

Regardless, they are going to try and take Duke's head off. It's going to be
an electric atmosphere, somewhat like it has been in the past with UNC.
Juan Dixon is one of the best players in at least recent ACC history, and he's a
pain. So is Blake. Duke has four defenders to try on them though, with
Ewing and Jones. We wouldn't be at all surprised to see Jones employed as a
stopper in this game, but we'll have to wait and see.

The bad thing about this game is the quick turnaround for Wake Forest on
Saturday. Playing the #1 and #2 place teams in the ACC in that short a time span
is pretty brutal, and certainly neither is a guaranteed win.