clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Duke Survives Drexel, 78-68

N&O |
N-R |
NY Post |
NY Daily News |
H-S |
| Philly
| Vitale
| W-S
Every so often, Duke gets into a game with a supposedly inferior opponent who
plays like a Rocky Balboa on the fourth of July, and even for the most avid Duke
fan, it's hard to see the underdog playing so hard and with such guts without at
least some small part of you admiring them and urging them on. Such was the case
with the brilliant effort of Drexel, at least for us.

Picked for seventh place in the Colonial, Drexel came very close to sticking
it right up Duke's rear, keeping the game in doubt until the very end.

Drexel outhustled Duke, had more heart than Duke, played defense with more
desire than Duke, and for the most part had more guts than Duke.

Not to say there weren't bright spots for Duke. J.J. Redick came
through with a brilliant game. Coach K said that "J. J. has been a
great player for us," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I don't know
if you can expect greatness with him. It just kind of happens. He knew what was
going on. He was trying to put the whole team on his back. A couple of times he
forced some things, but he was saying, 'Is anyone else going to step up right
now?' "

Not consistently, anyway. Shelden Williams was bothered by Drexel's
Chaz Crawford, got in foul trouble, and wasn't in a good rhythm for much of the

Worst of all, DeMarcus Nelson probably sustained a hairline fracture in his
ankle. For Nelson, it is, thankfully, a relatively minor injury and one he
can fully recover from. For Duke, though, it's a big loss, and it's not
clear how long he'll be out.

Lee Melchionni had a poor game, shooting only 1-6 (although his bucket came
at a very useful time).

And collectively, Duke found it difficult for much of the game to defend
Drexel, or to match their energy.

Fortunately, though, aside from Redick's sensational game, there were enough
good stretches for Duke to come home with the win.

In the second half, Duke found Shelden Williams often and he scored a number
of easy baskets.

Marty Pocius filled in for DeMarcus Nelson to a large extent, and in 13
minutes scored seven points on 3-4 shooting. He still has to improve his
defense, although we saw him do some pretty impressive switches a couple of
times, and he needs to get stronger. But there's no hiding his athleticism
or his instinct for this game. He has the potential to get really good
really fast.

Greg Paulus played 25 minutes with 5 assists, no turnovers, and a steal.

But in some ways, the biggest deal in this game for Duke was the emergence of
Josh McRoberts who played probably his best basketball to date.

McRoberts shot 5-6 (his one miss was a bad attempt to beat the clock from
outside) for 10 points and added six boards. He picked his game up
precisely when Duke needed him to, when Williams was in foul trouble, scoring
four of his points during a 7-0 run which proved to be critical.

Eric Boateng only played four minutes, but he aquitted himself well.

In what is an emerging theme, Duke's games against tough mid-majors (whatever
the hell a mid-major means) have been against teams which have lost a ton from
last year and which aren't supposed to be able to keep up. NCCU, B.U.,
Drexel, all played solid games regardless of what the score said, and Davidson,
with a ton of returning seniors, did as well.

Next up is Memphis in the finals of the pre-season NIT, and Duke of course
will be playing without DeMarcus Nelson, who has been superb at times this

During the game, Dick Vitale said that a lot of people won't be happy with
the win and that that's unfortunate. He's right. Duke played a
tougher-than expected opponent and came up with what they needed to win.
And they got several players to step up at key moments. Winning by 50 is
nice, but winning is nice, period.