The idea behind scheduling Valparaiso was to simulate an early round NCAA
game, since those have become particularly dangerous lately. Part of the
reason they have, though, is because mid-majors, if you'll excuse the term, have
a tendency to keep a core group of players together longer than most higher
level programs do anymore. So where Duke has in recent years lost Brand,
Avery, Maggette, Dunleavy, Boozer, and Williams to the draft a year or two (or
three) early, schools like Valpo build chemistry over four years.
Unfortunately for Valpo, two problems with this theory: 1) they are a very young
team, and 2) Duke was not in an indulgent mood.
Duke had a pretty amazing night from three point range, pulling off an
unusual statistical accomplishment: shooting better from three point range than
from the overall shots, by 57.7% to 48.4%. Early on in the three point
era, Rick Pitino figured out that shooting 33% for threes was the same as
shooting 50% for twos, so shooting nearly 60% is just devastating. Chances
are that's the last game you'll see Williams, Randolph, and Horvath all score
But as brilliantly as Duke shot, the defense was just stifling. Duke
limited Valpo's overall shooting to about half of their three point shooting -
the Crusaders only hit 31.1% overall.
And while it doesn't show up in the box scores, there were a ton of plays
where Duke almost touched the ball, or forced Valpo's players to the absolute
perimeter of the court - to the halfcourt line, or the sideline. And then
there would be, usually, two defenders rushing in to harass the ballhandler, who
might as well have been trying to pass to Miami from San Juan.
That kind of pressure cost Valpo possessions - they had 16 turnovers, and
just about as many near turnovers - and it wore them out when they did get
shot. Duke only collected eight steals, but again, the level of pressure
meant that quite a few passes or bobbles were nearly turnovers.
While there are a lot of individual accolades to hand out, can we start with
that ridiculous Duhon on-his-back pass to Deng for a dunk? What a great
When you watch it in real time, it looks as if Duhon knew exactly where Deng
was, and he had a pretty good idea. But if you slow it down, you'll see
Deng break stride slightly so that he doesn't outrun the ball, gather it, then
explode to the basket.
If you have slo-mo, put the brakes on his down-the-lane follow up dunk,
too. He was the last guy down, and came flying down the lane when the long
jumper was launched from the deep left corner, near the bench. That was
another pretty amazing play.
When you really take Bob Knight's advice and don't follow the basketball, and
watch Deng operate, he's really pretty amazing to watch. He's there on
defense, he's around the ball when the rebound kicks out, when the break takes
off, he's in the thick of it - the kid just has tremendous basketball instincts.
He ended up with 18 points and 8 boards.
Obviously Daniel Ewing had a phenomenal game, shooting brilliantly and
being a big factor on defense. He shot 7-10.
Chris Duhon continues his stellar senior campaign, leading his college team
in much the same way he led his high school team: blending in, then taking over
when necessary. His stats weren't that high in this game, but he continues
to inspire his teammates.
JJ Redick ended up with 15 points; Shelden Williams had a quiet night with 9
points and but 2 boards; Shavlik Randolph ended up with 16 and 5 boards.
Sean Dockery, the agitator, stirred up the defense as usual, with four
Another nice thing is to look down the assist column:
2,2,3,3,3,0,0,3,0,0,1,0,0. That's a nice distribution!
We had one quibble with Valparaiso: we thought taking a photo in Cameron was
a really bad idea. Don't get us wrong, we understand it, but by taking the
photo before the game, they put Duke on a different level. To us, it
was a critical tactical error. How can you get in the mindset you
need to be in to beat a team like Duke at home when you're doing the equivalent
of asking for autographs? Not a good move.
On the other hand, Homer Drew did make one exceedingly smart move: unlike
some of his more paranoid colleagues, he came out and shook hands and exchanged
pleasantries with the Crazies. Jim Valvano used to do this sort of thing
to an extent, and Bobby Cremins and Lefty Driesell always used to have a good
time with the kids in Cameron. You can add Dennis Scott to that list, and
Shammond Williams, who actually used to ride over from Chapel Hill to visit
Krzyzewskiville. It's not that they're bad kids, he explained; they just
get crazy inside of Cameron.
Dennis Scott - if you missed or never heard about the Twinkie incident, it's
a great story.
The point is, guys like that can win over Cameron in a heartbeat.
Valvano did it when the kids yelled, "sit! sit! sit!" and he sat his
butt right on the floor. He passed on "roll over!" however.
Like Magic Johnson and Bobby Cremins, Homer Drew is gifted with a smile which
opens doors and warms hearts. It's just about impossible to dislike this
guy, and more than a few Duke fans were probably hoping that Valpo would close
the lead a bit. Not too much, but a bit. We didn't pull for Valpo
Thursday, but we will the rest of the way.