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The Drive For Five Is Alive - Duke Beats UNC

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Okay, all you people who jumped off the bandwagon over the last few weeks, you can get
back on now. But this is the last time! We mean it!

Duke soundly defeated UNC in Greensboro, with a first half display of athleticism that
was truly impressive. Among the most impressive was Casey Sanders, who was doing a
little bit of everything and driving UNC nuts. The man was blocking shots, dunking,
rebounding, drawing charges, and running the court. He had his usual struggles with
not-so-great hands, but all in all, the first half was perhaps as close as Casey has ever
come to his potential.

Dahntay Jones also was impressive, as were Chris Duhon, Daniel Ewing, Shelden Williams
in spots, and Nick Horvath, who lately has shown a real knack for just, for lack of a
better term, competency. That sounds like faint praise, but it's not: when you get a
guy coming off the bench who knows how to defend, how to rebound, set screens, and not
just keep the team at the level it was at but actually pick it up a notch, well, that guy
is pretty damn valuable.

To add to the offensive fun, Duke did a real number on UNC defensively, with the team
shooting .42%, and Rashad McCants going only 3-11 (Casey and Shelden and Dahntay swatting
shots away probably had a lot to do with that).

Being Duke-UNC, there were naturally subplots and the like. In this case, the first one
was the return of Sean May, who came out, Willis Reed like, and hit his first two shots,
only to get shut out the rest of the way. It might have cheered the Heels, but it
made no difference to Duke whatsoever. However, it might make a difference to the
Committee, who factor injuries into their calculations, and May's return could give UNC a
slight push forward. What it didn't do was to help their offense much: UNC has
gotten used to operating a specific way, and May really changed that. Ooooops.

The other interesting item was Johnny Dawkins refusing to shake hands with Matt Doherty
before the game (they did shake hands afterwards). You can't possibly know what that
was about, but one can reasonably assume that it had something to do with the brouhaha in
the UNC game last weekend, when Doherty chest-butted Chris Collins, and then walked away
with his hands in the air, as if to suggest that somehow he was above the mess he just

We don't know Johnny to speak of, but we do know he's an affable and approachable guy,
and when you are around him, you in no way feel like you are around a big shot. He's
as down to earth as anyone could be, laughs a lot, and is quick with a smile. We
feel safe in saying this: whatever irritated him that much must have been fairly
serious, because Dawkins has only rarely shown a temper.

Just as an aside, we wonder what would have happened had he bumped Wojo instead?

Ok, back to hoops. One of the nicer things in this tournament is the (re)
emergence of Daniel Ewing, who has had an up-and-down sophomore season. He has shown
a lot of flashes, however, none more so than Friday. We'll reiterate what we have
said about Ewing from the beginning: that kid is a winner. His teams almost always
win, and it couldn't have hurt him to spend four years in high school playing with T.J.
Ford. Daniel could emerge as a clutch player for Duke before all is said and done.
He's got the nerve for it.

Duke will face N.C. State in the finals, which should be interesting. State has come a
long way in the last two years. We think they've sewn up a bid now, so you Wolfies
can run along back to Raleigh now!

Just kidding! it's going to be a great challenge, because State's offense is so
versatile. And more impressively, they have pretty thoroughly overcome the loss of
Evtimov now.

But consider this: if Duke can choke off the three point shot and make this a defensive
game, State will have a tough assignment: beat Duke inside, and play tougher defense.
We're not experts, but we're pretty sure that if State is going to win, they'll
need to hit a ton of threes. A third game in three days makes that very
tough. State can still win, and if they get hot then all bets are off. But
defense solves a lot of problems.

A lot of people have forgotten State's huge tradition. Everett Case was a
masterful coach and a tremendous showman as well. If we're not mistaken, Press
Maravich won a title in the late '60s. And of course Norm Sloan had some monstrous
teams at N.C. State. Most people's recollections start with Valvano, which is
understandable but somewhat flawed logic. Aside from his title run, V's State career
wasn't really that great. It's just that his personality was so outsized that
everything seemed great.

If you think that State just got here on luck, you're wrong. That team is coming
together in a big way, and has been for a couple of weeks. It should be a great
game, and should renew the rivalry between the schools on a bigger and older stage.
Let's go, Duke!