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| Bashehor | Virginia
Pilot | Kinston
Every once in awhile, you go to a game that reminds you just what is so great
about college basketball. The fact that UNC usually is on the losing end
is purely coincidental.
Cameron was electric Wednesday night. The Crazies were in rare form,
the noise was overwhelming, the carnival was in full force. And then the
Duke jumped on UNC with a ferocity we haven't seen this year, but we hope to
see it again. In the opening minutes of the game, they were absolutely
magnificent. And as the game developed, it was clear that Duke's defense
was the dominant force in this matchup.
Duke held a superb - let's reiterate that, out of respect, because UNC is
beyond good on the fast break - a superb team to one fast break basket.
They forced UNC to play half court, and the only player who seemed truly
comfortable doing that was Sean May, who had a monster game, with 23 points and
18 rebounds. UNC outrebounded Duke by 15, so there's where it came from - May.
Duke forced 23 turnovers and completely took UNC out of their offense,
though. Jawad Williams and Rashad McCants were effectively neutralized,
with Williams going 1-6 and McCants going 3-13.
May and Raymond Felton, his eight turnovers aside, kept UNC in the
game. Felton obviously had a big problem there, but unless you see this
kid play in person, it's impossible to see how quick he is. It's not just
up and down, either - he's fast, he's quick, if he were a car, he'd be one of
those little BMW sports cars, with the optional big engine. The guy is
The rest of the team had a tough time, though. Jackie Manuel, who did a
solid job on J.J. Redick, with help from David Noel, did shoot 3-4, but most of
his offense is what happens after the play doesn't work. It's a great skill, but
he's not someone you count on for offense. He ended up with four fouls as
Marvin Williams was 5-8, but he didn't seem quite as imposing as we expected
Somewhat surprisingly, despite UNC's significant advantage on the bench, only
seven guys got double figure minutes, the same as Duke.
It was pretty clear, as the first half ended and in the beginning of the
second half, that UNC was a frustrated team. Raymond Felton snapped at his
teammates more than once, and Felton and Manuel were both apparently deeply
offended by the officiating (we will say that we weren't overly impressed, and
that on on occasion, Daniel Ewing got away with wrapping his arm around someone
while driving by - in front of an official. But the Sean May tip-in/goaltend
evened that out).
No doubt UNC set out to stop Redick and Williams, and to a large extent, they
were successful, certainly successful enough to win had things gone just a bit
differently. Redick ended up with 18 points, but only shot 4-12 (Manuel had a
hand in his face at almost all times, and Noel is just a really big, big guy to
deal with). Williams ended up with 11 points and nine boards, but UNC had
a lot more to throw at him than Duke had to throw at May.
But despite everything else, perhaps DeMarcus Nelson was the difference in
this game. He had 16 points, only two rebounds, but also had three assists and
four steals and hit 4-4 from the line. He also tossed in two big
treys. One suspects he is almost over his hand injury.
Daniel Ewing again didn't shoot particularly well, but he ended up with 15
Despite a very impressive performance by Duke, they were still in danger down
the stretch, and you wonder, with Redick going 40 minutes, Williams 38, and
Ewing only coming out for one minute after cramping up, if Duke wasn't just worn
out at the end and unable to finish the way he would like.
No matter. It was Redick who broke up UNC's last attempt, and after the game
he explained that they knew UNC was going to run the same play they used to beat
UConn, detailing it for the benefit of Doris Burke. So when the ball was
supposed to swing to McCants, there was Redick, and UNC was in trouble.
The ball ended up going to David Noel on its way out of bounds. UNC had 18 seconds to run a play and couldn't get a shot off against Duke's defense.
So Duke goes to Maryland next for, possibly, a bit of revenge, and then to
Virginia Tech, where the Hokies fully expect to ambush Duke (and the fans are
counting on it too, perhaps prematurely). If they pull that stretch off, then
they are in the driver's seat of the ACC.
Wake Forest has N.C. State coming up, then hosts FSU, then off to Miami,
before getting to Durham.
UNC steps out for UConn, then gets an easy slate at the end, with
Virginia and Clemson at home, off to State and Maryland, then hosts FSU before
the rematch with Duke.
But whatever. Duke is in a tremendous situation, and after being picked
fourth, and then suffering all the injuries and having no bench...what can you
say? Well, Nate James said it best: It's all about heart. Duke has