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Yes, The Devils Are Wake-ing Up

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In a really intense and interesting game, Duke finally put Wake away in the
second half with a 16-0 run. The question in this game isn't who played
well, but rather who didn't. Pretty much everyone for Duke played an
exceptional game. Mike Dunleavy didn't shoot well, but ESPN only credits
him with two rebounds, and that has to be wrong. Wake played with some
serious problems, beginning with an injury to Broderick Hicks, a lesser injury
to Josh Howard, foul trouble, and not least of all, Darius Songaila losing
it. Still, they showed a lot of guts, a lot of talent, and tremendous
potential. This team should go further than any Tim Duncan team went into
the NCAAs, and they are a legitimate threat for the Final Four. That
depends on luck and the draw, but Wake could definitely be there.

At the beginning of the game, Wake essentially ignored Dahntay Jones, and he
punished them, scoring 20 points, most in the first half. But still, Wake
hung around for most of the first half, and, we might add, they looked damn good
in spots. We honestly thought that Broderick Hicks might have been a
turnover machine, or that Wake in general might have made mondo turnovers, after
some of the ugliness of the early season, but they seem to have reined that in
and only tossed it away 11 times. Duke had 8, which is also very
impressive. And while Duke, to our surprise, outrebounded Wake, there were
stretches of the game where Wake looked like a reasonable facsimile of an NBA
team: Antawn Scott and Josh Howard at times attacked the rim like the Bulls of
old. It was extremely impressive to see the dunks and the follows. Both of
those guys are immensely talented.

We might also remind you that Scott played with a severely injured finger -
in his last game, the bone actually popped through the skin. Ewwww! That brings
back Theismann memories. That can still make us toss our tacos.

Howard is just a freak athlete. Obviously he was a sleeper, because
everyone missed on him, but he sleeps no more. Watching that kid work the
boards and inside is really fun.

Nonetheless, Duke outworked Wake, and in particular Carlos Boozer had a huge
game with 18 boards. Take away Songaila (10) and Howard (5), and Boozer tied
Wake Forest on the boards. He also shot 8-11.

Mike Dunleavy had a frustrating shooting day, we imagine, but he did a lot of
things to affect the game. He must have had more than two boards, and he had
four assists, and had his normal intelligent all-round game.

Williams started somewhat slow, but at a certain point in the second half, he
just exploited Wake relentlessly, driving time and again around the foul line
before curling down to attack the rim.

Duhon also had an excellent game, and he was much more aggressive than we
have seen him this year. He drove, he made some brilliant passes, he shot more
than he usually does.

A lot of praise also had to go to Jones, as we said. Yes, he was unattended,
but he also had sense enough to press his advantage and stick it to Wake.
And he was the guy who irritated Songaila into a fateful mistake.

Songaila's mistake was enormous. Saddled with one foul, he suddenly had
three, and Duke had four attempts at the foul line. Prosser took him out
for the rest of the half, admitting to the press that he was irritated with
Songaila. Darius said he knew immediately he had screwed up, but there was
nothing to be done.

And yet, despite the runaway score, Wake was much more in this game than one
would suspect from the final. Duke did build a 12 point lead by halftime, but
Wake chipped away at it. The Devils pushed it back out, and Wake slugged their
way back again. The game was uncertain until Duke went on a 16-0 tear and pretty
much put the game out of reach.

Since FSU, Duke has played Tech, State, Maryland, and Wake Forest, and it's
fair to ask if they are as good as the winning margin would suggest. We can't
actually answer the question, needless to say, but we can say this team is
improving and improving very, very quickly. When Dahntay Jones and Chris Duhon
are forces, you really have to pick your poison when you play Duke.

Our guess is that when the rematch rolls around, the Deacs will be primed,
and, in the words of Cliff Ellis, agile, hostile, and mobile. Which is a
nice way of saying: Part II will be excellent.

Incidentally, while we should all send Steve Robinson an engraved,
personalized thank-you note for waking Duke up, after the FSU loss, a lot of
people went off the deep end, thinking that Duke was doomed. Now a lot of people
are acting like the Devils are invincible. C'mon. They're a ball team. They're
young kids. They'll win and lose, hopefully a lot more of the former than the
latter, but that's the nature of the beasts. We wish everyone would quit
assigning status and just watch this group play. They're improving, and they're
improving very fast now.