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Duke Defeats A Game B.U., 64-47

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Not exactly what you expected, was it?

For the second game in a row, Duke faced a team of lesser talent which was
incorporating several inexperienced newcomers into key roles, and which was
very, very well coached and which gave Duke fits.

Duke beat a stout-hearted NCCU in the final exhibition game, and took out
Boston University 64-47. But it wasn't easy by any means.

Duke shot poorly in the early part of the game, and B.U., employing
principles from the Princeton offense, screened and ran backdoor cuts and also
played outstanding defense.

Duke played pretty well defensively too, after adjusting to how B.U. spread
the court. They forced 26 turnovers for the game and at times forced B.U.
into some unfortunate mistakes, including a five second call, a palming call,
and some foot-on-the line plays.

Still, it wasn't a vintage Duke performance, and while Duke, too, has to
incorporate a lot of new faces into their team, pretty clearly roles are still
in flux and other than J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams, and in a different way
Lee Melchionni, no one's role is firm. We wouldn't be at all suprised to
see different starting lineups for the next several games.

Aside from not shooting well for much of the game - and that's not uncommon
in season openers - Duke probably wishes they had gotten the ball down low to
Shelden Williams more often than they did. When he did get the ball, he
scored frequently.

He had a good, though not great game. He shot 6-12 and grabbed seven
boards, and shot seven free throws. He showed a nice jump hook, and drove
the baseline on one occasion for a big dunk.

It would be hard to argue that he controlled the inside completely, but
spreading the court forces you to follow your man, unless he just can't shoot.

Redick didn't shoot particularly well - and he even missed two free throws -
but he showed in a number of ways that he continues to outgrow the earlier
perception of him as just a shooter. His fake on the drive in the second
half, which paralyzed about half of B.U.'s team, was gorgeous.

Here's how it is for Redick, by the way: he's perceived as such a great
shooter that he can shoot 50%, like he did in this game, and people like us will
think he shot poorly (then again, we thought B.U. was severely overmatched,
which shows what we know). How challenging was B.U.? Here's one way to
measure it: they forced Redick to play 39 minutes.

Sean Dockery, too, played a fairly solid game, and despite not shooting well,
Melchionni did what he usually does, which is to provide a higher level of
intensity, which was really important in this game. His steal and dunk when Duke
only led 20-19 gave his team a major jolt. Melchionni's never going to be
a superbly athletic player, but he always provides intensity, and never comes
with less than a complete effort. Duke made a really smart decision to get
this kid, in retrospect.

The other nice quality which Melchionni has is that he doesn't care much
whether he starts or not. He's going to come in and play his way, and it's
a major boon for Duke.

DeMarcus Nelson didn't have a great offensive game, but he did have seven
steals, and that's impressive against anyone. His defense, like his
ballhandling and his shot, has improved tremendously. Offensively, he
didn't always make the right decision about when it was smart to drive, and when
he should pull up or pass, but if his defense stays that solid, he's going to
play and play a lot. Offensively, he just needs to find his spots.

Josh McRoberts, like all the freshmen, is adjusting, but the signs are all
there. He is really well muscled for a kid just out of high school, and he
clearly has excellent instincts for the game. He made a number of tough
passes, which of course you have to see before making them. He showed a
tremendous outlet pass against Central, and he is willing to bang and draw
charges. He's also willing to bull his way to the basket. He had 10 boards
in his first college game, five of them offensive.

We haven't seen him a lot, but he plays with a lot of passion. Shavlik
Randolph knew the defense better, of course, and would have been a major asset
in this game, but McRoberts has already shown more willingness to go up hard
than Randolph did.

Greg Paulus also played and while the early rap on him is that he has to cut
down on turnovers, it's also very clear that he is a great passer. He zipped one
through the lane to Williams, who lost the ball. But getting it there was
pretty hard. When it comes to passing, either you get it or you
don't. Paulus pretty clearly does.

As we said earlier, it's going to take some time to work the freshmen in and
then for roles to be defined. Coach K has said over the years that he
prefers to work with an eight-man rotation, that he thinks that is the ideal
number. Right now, Duke arguably has seven starters. Martynas Pocius
is very talented and if he plays solid defense, it's hard to imagine his not
getting minutes.

But who knows? Roles are not predefined at Duke, and if it turns out
that what this team really needs is a third big man, then Eric Boateng will be a
major asset. If it turns out that Jamal Boykin carves out a role similar
to Melchionni, where he comes in and plays at a higher level than just about
anyone else, he'll get time.

Whatever happens, it's probably going to take a few weeks to really sort
things out, and while Duke is rated preseason #1, at this point, that's hard to
justify. But in a few weeks, a lot will change.

One thing which we're guessing has been addressed quite a bit already is that
at times B.U. seemed to play with a lot more intensity. There were a
number of occasions when they managed to get three, or four, and maybe five guys
around the rebound. Needless to say, they won a lot of those battles and
outrebounded Duke 33-27.

Rebounding is a deceptive stat, and we always add turnovers to rebounds,
since a possession denied amounts to a rebound. Add those in and Duke's
advantage is pretty serious: 59-37.

Still, B.U.'s players were also patient and merciless in hunting the backdoor
or setting and exploiting screens. They had all those turnovers, yet Duke
couldn't feel safe until the last few minutes of the game.

Duke might have put the game away earlier, but they also shot quite poorly
from outside, hitting only 18.8% of their three point shots, normally a staple
in Durham.

Duke's next opponent in the NIT is Seton Hall, which beat Manhattan.
Duke and Seton Hall have an interesting history, which we'll get into presently.