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Devils Come Alive, Beat Mason 69-53

Maybe they should call more team meetings.

According to ESPN, Duke's players called a meeting and talked through some
issues. They felt they weren't playing Duke basketball and weren't being
aggressive enough offensively.

That improved rather quickly against George Mason, as Duke, for the first
time this season, attacked a defense, played excellent defense, and took home a
16 point win for their trouble.

DeMarcus Nelson and Jon Scheyer both registered career highs, and the team
cleared 50% from the floor and had a number of memorable plays, perhaps
highlighted by Josh McRoberts' behind the back pass to Lance Thomas for a three
point play.

But there was more. There was an alley-oop on a break from McRoberts to
Nelson, there were nine three pointers, there was hustle and enthusiasm all

In short, it may be a young team, but it grew up a good bit.

And despite the fact that Mason lost some key players from it's miracle Final
Four run last season (they certainly weren't a lock to make the tournament),
they played fairly well, despite losing by 16. This is a smart, well-coached
team, and they were not easy to pull away from, despite their reliance on
Folarin Campbell, Will Thomas, and John Vaughn, who have been their only scoring
threats this season. Campbell and Thomas scored 13 apiece, but Vaughan was
held to four. That only adds up to 30, and that's not enough to win a half
usually, let alone a game.

Fortunately for Mason, Gabe Norwood scored seven and Louis Birdsong scored
nine. Dre Smith has had some offensive production this year, so maybe
between the three of them they can make a difference.

One stat people have periodically pointed to is that Duke has held a number
of teams to 50 points or less. But what's not often mentioned is the
cumulative impression. Duke is holding opponents overall to 51.6 ppg.
Toss out the Marquette game, and it's 49.8. That's an impressive

But no one has really had an issue with the defense; it's the offense which
has struggled. But in many ways today it was much, much better. It
looked like a Duke team, attacking with verve and confidence. Scheyer's
outside shot is a huge boost, because if he can do that, he can do what J.J.
Redick did for four years, which is to pull a defense out. If he hadn't hit his
jumpers along with Nelson, Mason would have happily packed the defense in and
dared Duke to shoot.

But he did shoot, and Duke did attack, and a number of players looked really
good in doing so. Pretty much everyone had a personal highlight.

Just as importantly, it takes a certain amount of nay-saying away. Can
Duke score? Yes, they can. Can they hang on to the ball? Yes, apparently
so (only 11 turnovers). Can they look like a Duke team usually
looks? Definitely.

After the game, Coach K said the team is also dealing with unpublicized
injuries, and said that as a policy, such things aren't discussed because they
could come across as excuses. He's looking forward to the exam break as a
chance to get everyone healthier, rested, and as an opportunity to watch film
until his eyeballs fall out. Then it's back to tinkering, breaking things
down, and putting them back together. One of the bigger changes is likely to be
the role of McRoberts, which will be tweaked and adjusted.

Watching a young team develop is at times frustrating, but ultimately a lot
of fun. We're looking forward to seeing what will happen in January.