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Duke 105 Nike Elite 69

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Box Score
The Duke we saw tonight was considerably removed from the Duke we saw last
week, and while it's early, it's hard to see how to attack them right now.
Power? Williams, and increasingly Randolph, provide it, and Thompson is a
big, big man. Wings? Offensively, Duke is really potent on the
wings. Defense is good and getting better. Attack the ball? Duhon is much more
confident with the ball than he was last year. Press? We're not sure
how to do that. Obviously, other coaches will see subtleties that elud us,
but as of now, this team is looking like it could be really, really good.

One obvious difference from last week was that everyone was talking, and
since communication is a key part of Duke's game, that made a big difference.

But there are a lot of other characteristics of this team which are
emerging. One is they run extremely well, and, they pass wonderfully on
the break. Duhon is the primary character here, but other guys are doing
it well also, including Ewing, Redick, Deng, Dockery, Randolph, and, in a nice
surprise, Williams. Shelden, who last year was more or less limited to
defense and rebounding, has markedly improved on almost every aspect of
offense. He hit some nifty passes tonight, and did a lot of moves in
traffic which were really impressive. He ended up with 17 poiints, 9
board, and 6 blocks - and 4 assists. Nice game!

At the beginning of the game, though, the one who really took over was
Deng. He hit eight out the team's first 12 points, and was rebounding,
stealing, defending, you name it. He is really just figruing everything
out, so when he gets more incorporated into the system, he's going to be
devastating. Incidentally, with Redick, Duhon, Ewing,
Horvath, Randolph, Melchionni and Deng all capable of hitting 3's, this could
end up as the best 3 point shooting team Duke has had.

Deng also had one drive for a dunk that was kind of fascinating: it was like
he just drifted in. Then we realized that anyone else on the team would have
needed 4 or 5 steps, where Deng took just 2. He's just that long, and
because of it, he looks slower than he is.

With the exception of one outside shot, Randolph scored all his points
inside, some on some pretty impressive power moves.

Randolph was bumped from the lineup by Ewing, who, really is playing so well
that it's very hard to keep him off the floor. He has possibly the best
mid-game we've seen from a guard since, well, let's see...Thomas
Hill? It's a tough question. He gets a lot of points just a
few feet away from the teeth of the defense, and has no problem with the 3's,
either. His defense is also getting really intense. Ewing ended up with 15
points, 4 assists, and 3 steals.

We should probably mention here that Nike is a better-than-average touring
team. They had some good players - David Vaughn, from Memphis, Ousmane
Cisse, who was a huge recruit a few years back - so beating them by 36 is no
minor thing. They gave Clemson and Tech excellent games, and not all
touring teams would.

JJ Redick was hot, hitting 6-8 from behind the line, and one circus shot that
went almost to the top of the backboard before dropping in. Like a number
of his teammates - Randolph, Ewing, Duhon, Horvath, Williams - Redick took the
summer to remake his body. He's much slimmer now, and he really is

We got e-mail from a reader telling us that you can't become quicker, which
is true, but what you can do is to really refine your body, and you will react
more quickly.

Sean Dockery also continued his solid play, with a number of smart passes and
only one turnover. He was so wild last year that he could have three on
the way to the scorer's table: no more.

Duke outrebounded Nike 43-27, and with two pretty okay big men on the team,
you'd think they'd be closer than they wre.

Other notes: Duke only had 11 turnovers, to 17 for Nike. Most minutes
played? Deng, with 31. Usually it's a point guard who has the most minutes
at Duke. Free throw shooting: a potential weakness, with Duke only hitting
13-19. Second half, the Devils were 8-8; first half, they were 5-11.
Lee Melchionni did not play due to injury.

This team is really fun to watch, because everyone can do something really
well, and they seem to like each other.

And before we forget, a few words about Duhon. Chris no doubt has heard
the critics. From what we'e seen so far, he seems much more dedicated,
tremendously fit, and determined to have a big impact on this basketball
team. His performance, so far, is night and day from last year. We
hope the fans notice and applaud it. He had a tremendous floor game.

A final thought on Cisse: on some level, when Bill Frieder (former
Michigan coach who left for ASU, just before assistant Steve Fisher took the
team to the title), when he looks at Deng, has to realize that they both are
where they are because they both blew it, Frieder by leaving the Big 10 for
Arizona State, and Cisse by trying to go from high school to the NBA. When
we saw him in the T.O.C., the kid gave us chills. We saw him as a smaller
version of Hakeem Olajuwon. Now, he's touring on a team with other washouts,
coached by a guy who washed out himsef. It's a long road down for both of
them, particularly for the younger man. He was an extraordinary talent in high
school, but now injuries and life have made him mortal. Player and coach
must look at each other every so often and just, for no reason, feel angry, or
perhaps, just sorrow.