H-S | W-S
Duke-UCLA was once a glamour match, with the best of the East vs. the best
of the West. Duke is still the best of the East, but UCLA is not what it was
even a few years ago, and it showed on Saturday afternoon.
Despite an impressive start to the game by UCLA, with a 12-2 lead, Duke
bounced back and seized control with relative ease. The brightest
performances came from J.J. Redick, Nick Horvath, Casey Sanders, and Chris Duhon.
For Horvath and Sanders, it must have been especially sweet. Both
players have been questioned and periodically dismissed, yet both were
absolutely critical coming off the bench. Sanders started defending Dijon
Thomas, who hit 10 of UCLA's first 12 points over Shavlik Randolph, and Horvath
toughened up the inside play on both ends and had probably his best game as a
Blue Devil. Both players started well behind their classmates (all gone
now except for Andre Buckner), and both have worked hard and have obviously
learned a lot. For Horvath, who came in as a skinny perimeter specialist,
he now can play tough defense and muscle inside (and still step outside).
For Sanders, who was a basketball waif when he came to Duke, he has picked up
some savvy and has become a basketball player as opposed to an athlete playing
For Duhon, it was another step in his assumption of authority. He is
not just running the team, he is really taking control of it. You almost
never saw him get angry or verbal on the court before, but now he is talking,
demanding, wheedling, doing whatever he has to do to get his team going in the
For J.J. Redick, what can you say. What a performance. The kid
was sterling, and while he didn't shoot well in some of the previous games, he
put himself on the map as a deadly threat in this one. No one can afford
to play off of him, which means that Duke will be a very tough team to zone.
For Shavlik Randolph and Shelden Williams, this game was basically a learning
experience. Neither played particularly well - Randolph was shut out - but
the play of Horvath and Sanders eased their poor performances.
Daniel Ewing continues his oh-so-steady persona, shooting 3-4 from the floor
and 3-3 from the line. He did have 4 turnovers, but his overall play more
than compensated for them.
Dhantay Jones came in for some mild criticisms from Billy Packer, but nothing
drastic. Basically he said he wished Jones had a plan before he took off,
which is not bad criticism, really.
And speaking of Packer, he made reference to the situation Shelden Williams
was in last spring, when he and other teammates were investigated on potential
sex charges and also kicked off their team. First things first: their
school had a zero tolerance policy, so suspension was mandatory regardless of
the nature of the situation. Other athletes were suspended later in the
year. Secondly, though, Billy Packer has made comments about how the
infamous point shaving scandal of the '60s touched his life, when he was
investigated for alleged involvement and how rumors flew. We seem to
remember him saying how unfair it felt, that he was innocent but hurt by the
experience. Ok, Billy, well maybe you can apply your little life lesson to
young people who might have a similar complaint.
After the 12-2 lead, Coach K called timeout and, we're guessing, fired his
team up. They came out and stormed back into the lead fairly quickly and
never really looked back.
The best news, possibly, is that the team now seems to be coming together.
After - can you believe it? - eight games, the defense is tightening,
communication seems to be improving, and interior play, both on offense and
defense, is getting better. Randolph has been rock-solid up until this
game but couldn't score. Williams continues to struggle to make his own
shot. Duke's lucky to have been able to nurture Horvath and Sanders, and
they both made arguments for more PT, but Randolph and Williams are both really
important to this team.
At times, this team looked like Duke teams usually look - very aggressive
defensively, and shooting and driving with panache. There were flurries of
great ball-hawking (did you catch Duhon hitting the floor in hot pursuit?), some
wonderful fast breaks, and some wonderful ball movement in spots as well.
It wasn't consistent, but you can really start to see the outline of a dynamic
young team coming into focus, and it's a pretty nifty group.
Notes - John Wooden's mind seems clear as a bell at 92, which ain't
easy...separated at birth -the Irish bulldog from Droopy cartoons and his
brother, Gene Keady....with Duhon at an elevated level now, and Ewing, Redick,
and Dahntay Jones, not to mention Sean Dockery, Duke's backcourt is really
powerful...not many can go that deep...Duke held UCLA to 43% for the game...TJ
Cummings, in a weird comment (to us anyway), said his choice of UCLA over Duke
"came down to the coaching staff..." whatever...Horvath shot 7-10 from
the floor...Redick 7-13...Duhon 6-10...Sanders was game high with 8 boards...Redick
shot half of Duke's 3's...