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Duke Loses To Tech, Wins Regular Season Anyway

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Tech came into Cameron Wednesday night with a steely determination, and they
outscrapped Duke, outshot Duke, outdefended Duke, and mostly outsmarted Duke and won 76-68. Duke
was playing for the regular season title and couldn't get it done, but
fortunately, State lost to Maryland in a great, great ACC game, and so Duke is,
in fact, champions, though we're guessing they'd rather have done it without
help. But tops is still tops, and we're the best in regular season. Woo-hoo!

Back to the game: Tech was great. A lot of teams come into
Cameron, do well for a while, then get rattled. Never happened. Tech
played with verve, with confidence, and passion, and they made Duke look kind of
passive for much of the game.

In reality, the game was in trouble about 3.5 minutes in, when Shelden
Williams picked up his second foul. That and two second half fouls
limited Williams to, basically, half the game. He ended up with 13 points
and 10 boards, which is pretty good for 21 minutes. Unfortunately, in the
second half, the oft-maligned Luke Schenscher went off and dominated the
paint. Williams was in for part of his dominance, but because of his
fouls, didn't resist much.

Schenscher takes a lot of criticism, but when you get down to it, he is
7-1. He's not particularly gifted, but he is fairly savvy. You'll
see him, for instance, catch the ball up high and just drop it in the
basket. He's 7-1 - what does he need to bring it down for? For that
matter, why dunk? He can do it, but he's missed more than a few. But
he's smart enough to drop the ball in the basket, and it counts exactly as much
as a dunk. So big deal.

He's also a smarter passer than people think. He's slow, he's somewhat
mechanical, but he works really hard. He might even be a better fit for
this team than Chris Bosh was. We know, that's heresy, but it just might
be true. Bosh might have been too much the focal point, and might have cut
back on growth by his former teammates.

Whether or not you believe the two early fouls were the difference, the
bigger difference was that Tech just played smarter and harder. They won
most of the hustle plays. They outshot Duke, dramatically at times.
They outrebounded Duke. And as we have said all year, Luol Deng, marvelous
though he is, struggles with particularly physical teams.

It's not what you want, but it's not the end of the world, either. As
he matures, like Tony Lang and Mike Dunleavy, and Shavlik Randolph for that
matter, he'll get better at that part of the game. But the kid was
basically shut out, going 1-14 with five boards. He did have a spectacular
open court block, but that was more in his element.

It wasn't a great game, but there were some good things to come out of it,
not least of all Chris Duhon's passionate performance. If there are any
Duhon doubters left, give it up. Please. The kid has tossed his whole life
into this season, played with immense heart and without question, he's a
champion. That dramatic steal, the dive over the scoreboard, the seven
straight points from a point guard who mostly eschews shooting - if you don't
recognize it by now, you don't understand much about basketball. Chris is having
a senior year about as good as anyone at Duke has had. He's up there with
Battier, Hill, Laettner, Bruce Bell, anyone you can think of. He's not
just playing great. He's really become an inspiration. This season
is probably not enough to see his jersey retired, but Chris Duhon has become one
of our absolute favorite players of all time. Basketball is about a group
working together to overcome individual limitations. It's not about the
flashiness of dunks and MTV-type stunts. s

There's no one we know of playing in college today who is more true to
the secret heart of the game than Chris Duhon. He has completely remade
himself this year, and what he has discovered is greatness. It's not the
slam dunk, 40 points a game sort of thing that most people take for greatness,
but it's brilliant, brilliant basketball, and we admire it immensely. In
fact, as awed as we were by Jason Williams, in many ways we like Chris's game
better. That's not a knock on Jason - when you have a blinding talent like
his, you use it, and your coach uses it if he's smart. He was a stunning
basketball player.

But at times he was so good that his own teammates just seemed to say, hey,
you bail us out. It's understandable - how could you not watch
him? Even if you were on the same court? And how could you not pull
for someone with such an effusive personality?

But for us, we've come to like Chris's game better. It's an honor to
watch someone play the game the way he does.

Despite Wednesday's woeful performance, we enjoy watching Luol Deng for many
of the same reasons. He's a guy who is willing to do whatever is needed, to fit
in wherever he can most help. We're really curious to see where the game
takes him, and vice-versa.

So now that Duke has lost two streaks - home court wins and a fifteen game
streak over Tech, what's next? Why, the Evil Empire, of course.

Duke welcomes UNC to Cameron on Saturday for senior day. That means the
final home game for Chris Duhon and Nick Horvath, of course. We've talked
about Duhon, but we have also always liked Horvath. He's a tougher kid
than a lot of people realize, and he's worked hard for everything. He's
not hugely gifted or anything. Yet there he is, with four ACC rings, a
national title, and a chance for one more of each.

We know we don't have to encourage any enthusiasm for this game, but we hope
that everyone realizes what extraordinary careers these two guys have had.