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Duke beat Virginia, as expected, but it didn't come easy: Luol Deng and
Shelden Williams both took hard tumbles that they'll likely wake up feeling in
the morning, and maybe beyond. On top of that, Daniel Ewing is still
recovering from his illness, which Chris Duhon now has, and Sean Dockery's ankle
couldn't possibly be 100% this soon after the Clemson game (and he took a nasty
tumble himself). And we've heard that there was at least one other player
injured in practice, which can't help, either.
Deng went down hard early in the first half. He went up, turned or was
turned, we're not sure (not maliciously, mind you, but you get a lot of big guys
in the air and things can happen), and came down hard on his tailbone. He
tried once to play again in the first half but couldn't.
Williams went down in the second half, landing hard on his side. He too
left the game for a while.
Duke started the game shooting very, very well, with Redick and Ewing hitting
big shots from outside. At one point, Ewing hit three straight threes,
which ended up being the halftime margin.
After the half, UVa came out and pushed Duke pretty hard and pulled to within
three at the 13:19 mark. Then, though, Luol Deng re-entered the game and
Saying afterwards he only wanted to give his team a lift and didn't care
about scoring, Deng took over the game for a few minutes: rebound, basket,
defensive board, offensive board, free throws...it seemed like he was everywhere
and that he made his mind up that Virginia might as well understand that they
weren't going to win it. He broke their back, and that massive alley-oop
didn't hurt either.
Not long after that, Shelden Williams returned to the game, and there wasn't
much left for Virginia but to watch the clock run down.
Considering the illnesses and injuries, Duke shot remarkably well - 51.8%
from the floor and 79.4 from the line. They bagged eight blocked shots -
four by Williams - and 10 steals. They forced 15 turnovers all
Despite his illness, Duhon had four of those steals and broke Shane Battier's
record at Duke for most career steals.
As for the 'Hoos, considering everything which Virginia has to deal with now
- injuries, youth, an uncertain coaching situation - we thought they played a
tremendous game. They hung around for a long time, and in the second half
actually cut the lead to three. You could see in their faces that they
thought they could do it, but they couldn't get close enough. Gillen said after
the game that they showed a lot of courage, and he's right.
After the game, we watched the tape somewhat and noticed a few interesting
things. First, on one drive, a UVa player headed straight at Williams, who was
defending the basket, with a player slipping behind Duke's big man.
Williams not only waited until he left the ground, but waited until the shooter
had the ball so high he couldn't pass if he had wanted to. Then, and only
then, he went up and got it. You can tell someone to do it that way,
but you can't
Secondly, we watched on one play as Redick ran to the middle on a
switch. He ended up guarding Elton Brown. But while he was doing it,
he was talking and directing traffic. Redick has an obvious gift as a
shooter. But he's really learning this game inside out (or maybe outside
in is a better way to put it).
When you look at the bigger picture, and consider the willingness of the
various sick and injured players to push their physical problems aside, you have
a great example of a team rising above temporary individual limitations
Having shown a fair amount of physical courage (four players playing hurt and
at least two sick), they'll get to see the Wolfpack on Sunday. The Pack is
surging, and since they've presumably been resting, they should be confident and
fresh and they'll test not just Duke's physical courage but their mental
toughness as well.
Despite Duke's wins over Clemson and Virginia, this is a team which is
pushing its limits. State is a team which is really just beginning to test
their own. Our guess is that Deng will wake up Thursday morning and
really, really hurt. Williams might, too. Duhon will likely have to
push fluids after playing sick, and Ewing may need to as well.
It's going to be a huge challenge, much bigger than just about anything else
so far this season. Had Duke lost to Virginia, and then to State, then first
place would be up for grabs. As it is, State thinks they can hang with
Duke, and they're still mad about the previous game where they failed so
miserably. Sunday will probably be Duke's biggest, most difficult
challenge to date, and there's a lot that's not going Duke's way. Duke has
shown a lot of character so far this season, and they'll get the chance to show
more. It's going to be a tough weekend. But we're not going to
bet against this bunch.