ESPN | Box
| Notes |
There were a lot of really good things in the Fairfield game, and we'll get
to them, but the best thing was the brilliant performance by Chris
Duhon. Check out his line: 20 points on 6-9 shooting (and 6-7 from
the line), 9 assists, 7 steals, and a blocked shot. Add overall superb
defense and leadership, and that's a game anyone would be thrilled with.
But beyond Duhon's sensational performance was just one facet of this
Duke limited Fairfield to 37.5% from the floor, stole the ball 16 times,
forced 25 turnovers, and just generally dominated the Stags.
And this is a pretty good team. They have more talent than teams at
their level usually have, notably Gai and Maxwell, who had a sensational block
at one point in the game. You have to have some serious hops to do what he
For Duke, just about everyone, with the possible exception of Shelden
Williams, played well. Daniel Ewing and JJ Redick both continue to
recover, with Ewing looking more like the player we have all gotten used to, and
Redick, though not shooting particularly well, had a number of really smart
basketball plays. He was also nearly the leading rebounder. And he
tied Jeff Lamp's consecutive free throw record with 48, meaning he might break
it at UVa.
Luol Deng had some real highlights in this game, including a pretty intense
block and one play that, no matter how much you teach someone, you could never
teach anyone to do. It has to be innate.
On a fast break, he got a pass which he bobbled. While bobbling it, he
quickly batted it over to an open teammate - we're thinking it was Redick - who
nailed a jumper. It was a gorgeous improvisation.
In general, his versatility is really shining through, as he can lead the
break and also patrol under the basket defensively. His range is as deep
as Ewing's and inside play is no problem. But to us, that pass was just
about the coolest thing we've seen the kid do.
Shavlik Randolph went 6-9, 6-8 from the floor, for 18 points. His savvy
is starting to shine through, and he's getting much better about working an
opponent down near the basket.
And while this wasn't Shelden Williams best game, he had one fairly amazing
play: a perimeter player for Fairfield was streaking downcourt but thought
better of driving on Williams and settled for a jumper near the corner of the
free throw line and the lane instead. He was probably a little closer
down. But regardless, Williams came out and got it. He came
out from under the basket and blocked that shot. Think about it: he had to
guard the basket, so he had to wait until the guy was committed to
shooting. He still stepped out and got a piece of it, and just barley: but
he got it. It was a brilliant, brilliant play.
The other guy who is making an enormous impression on us is Sean Dockery, who
we love defensively. The guy has a legitimate shot, if he continues to
develop, of being the national defensive player of the year. He can
dominate the game with ball pressure, which is kind of astounding. The
last guy in the ACC who really could do that to an amazing level was Muggsy
Bogues, who was a truly intimidating player. Billy King could as well, but he
spent a lot of time defending bigger players. Dockery is not in that class
at this point, but he is incredibly fun to watch on defense. The kid is just a
remarkably alert defender.
After the game, Coach K said it was fairly obvious that "we're getting
better." We'd agree. This team is a long way from reaching its
potential. But that's a theoretical destination. For right now, we're just
enjoying the journey. This season is turning into a wonderful trip.