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Duke had a very unusual game against Wake Forest Sunday night, stacking up
considerable foul trouble, and still shutting the Deacs down when it counted,
Duke took a first-half lead and held it despite the significant foul trouble
they built up, culminating when Shelden Williams got his fourth early in the
second half. Williams and Josh McRoberts both had two fouls by the 16:05
mark, and McRoberts picked up a third one as well.
Still, J.J. Redick was on fire, and he really took it to the Deacs, finishing
with 32 points on a variety of shots, including the usual long bombs and his
assortment of drives and spin moves.
And Lee Melchionni chipped in with his best offensive game of the season,
scoring 17 points.
Still, the foul trouble made for some real problems for Duke, and they
adapted brilliantly. After both big men were in foul trouble, they did a
tremendous job of containing Wake's Eric Williams in the second half, playing
most of the second half with Williams sitting, and with McRoberts out at times
as well: Williams didn't score until the 8:52 mark.
And when he was in, he played smart and without fouling, which doesn't show
up in the stats, but made a big difference.
But in spite of Duke's passion, and not to diminish Wake's, Wake did a great
job of closing the gap early in the second half, cutting the lead to five
Then Trent Strickland made a mistake.
It wasn't as critical as the mistake Taron Downey made last year at FSU, when
he made the choke sign to the crowd right before choking the game away and
breaking a considerable free throw shooting streak, but it was almost as stupid.
With Shelden Williams out with fouls, Wake had a great chance to get back in
the game, and they made a run. Just as they cut the lead to five,
Strickland stole the ball and was sure to cut it to three.
Only he didn't. He hotdogged it and botched the dunk. Duke came
down and Redick immediately hit a three, to push the lead back to eight.
Shortly after that, Josh McRoberts, of all people, hit a three, and Wake never
Arguably, that play cost Wake the game. Duke was in a weak position and
could have been hurt. Instead, Strickland hurt his own team, and the game,
for all intents and purposes, was over.
In a few minutes, Duke had built a 14 point lead back up, and never looked
There was one other very significant thing for Duke in this game:
DeMarcus Nelson returned to action.
After the game, Coach K said he was only supposed to play in an emergency,
and he guessed it had become one. DeMarcus got 11 minutes, and scored on
an alley-oop pass.
The main thing is that he is back and getting into game shape again. It
gives Duke a lot of versatility again.
You can put him out with Sean Dockery and have a team capable of tremendous
pressure. Or he can guard Trent Strickland, or guys like Strickland.
He just helps a lot.
And speaking of Dockery, he gets overlooked a lot, but - and take this for
what it is worth considering the source - NBAdraft.net has him going in the
second round, to the Spurs. That's a great situation for him if it
actually happens that way.
He only had eight points and four assists, but Justin Gray wasn't exactly a
world-beater, and Sean had a lot to do with that performance.
As we said, it was somewhat of a, well, a curious game, to use Skip Prosser's
term from last year. No big men, and Duke still shuts down the inside
game. Redick and Paulus, supposedly inferior defenders, play virtually the
whole game and choke Wake's perimeter. Yes, Gray scored 17 points, but
they weren't at critical points in the game, and he had to work hard for all of
it. Shamaine Dukes got a rude introduction to the ACC, as Duke squeezed
Shamaine (sorry) and forced him to the bench. He only played 10 minutes
and his starting spot has to be in some doubt.
At the end of the day, though, once you get past the formidable player Greg
Paulus is becoming, and that Sean Dockery has grown into a valuable starter who
gets mentioned as an NBA draft possibility, a lot of what drives this team is
the fire of Redick and Williams.
Williams was not much of a factor tonight as fouls limited him to 17 minutes,
but Redick is consistently raising his game to a level of offensive greatness
rarely seen in Durham, or really, anywhere in the ACC.
He is playing with passion and a burning intensity, night in and night
out. He has come so far from being a shooter with freakish range that it's
not even funny.
Today, Redick can shoot, can drive, can pass, can make his own shot - in
short, you could argue that he's the best scorer Duke has had since Art Heyman.
That takes in a lot of people - Johnny Dawkins of course, Jason Williams, Jeff
Mullins, Jack Marin, Bob Verga, and Tate Armstrong, among them - but perhaps
only Heyman had a similar impact on his team. Certainly Dawkins could do
whatever he wanted to do, and there's no doubt that at times Jason Williams was
simply awesome, but Heyman stood alone in some ways, causing more offensive
havoc than anyone before or since.
At least until now.
People criticize Redick for various things - too slow, not a great defender,
when you get right down to it, too white.
But look at how he has willed himself into becoming a great player, and ask
yourself this simple question: is Redick a better athlete than Chris Mullin?
To us, the answer is obvious. Mullin was an amazing player, and he
refined every bit of talent he had, but as great as he was, he wasn't as good an
athlete as Redick is.
To put that in perspective, Redick isn't on the same planet as say Kobe
Bryant or Corey Maggette, two guys he'll see next year up close and personal,
but he'll continue to improve, and his basketball knowledge will continue to
Like Mullin, and others like Reggie Miller and Larry Bird, Redick is learning
precisely how much time he has to get a shot off, and like all great shooters,
can use out-of-place defenders as range finders. As they jump towards him,
too late, he uses their hands to gauge the arc of his shot. Don't ask us
how it works, we just know it does.
So Duke moves to 14-0, and now an angry Maryland comes to Cameron after a bad
loss at Miami. Nothing comes easy in the ACC, and this should be, like all
great ACC games, an absolute passion play.