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Duke Outlasts Kent State, 79-72

Kent State came to Cameron seeking respect. They left with a ton of it
after staying with Duke to the bitter end before bowing, 79-72.

Duke went up 16-4, behind some hot shooting by Jon Scheyer, who racked up 10
points between the 17:50 and 16:13 marks, and it seemed like it was going to be
just another day at the races.

Didn't work out quite that way.

Kent State is a smart, well-coached team, and they have some talent.
Just as importantly is where their talent comes from: their kids come from
places like Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, and Indianapolis, among others, and
played prep ball at schools like Farragut in Chicago (where Kevin Garnett
finished his career), Fork Union, and Brewster Academy, which has a certain
level of achievement in basketball.

In other words, these aren't athletic anomalies who come from small towns and
have never face competition: far from it.

These guys are experienced and they play very well as a team.

Omi Smith put on quite a show for the Golden Flashes, scoring 33 points on
14-20 shooting. He got solid support from Hammin Quaintance, a 6-7 junior,
who had 10 points and 10 assists, several of which were a bit daring and showed
an excellent grip of the game. It was a pretty good game for a guy who had
a fairly serious groin injury recently.

Mike Scott hit for 10, and freshman guard Chris Singletary scored 11.

For Duke, the first game after the exam break was somewhat up and down, with
the highlights being Scheyer's offensive performance - he scored 17 for the game
- and the overall performance of Josh McRoberts, who had 19 points and a
spectacular stat line: 19 points, six boards, four assists, six blocks and four
steals. That's a pretty singular stat line. There were a number of
spectacular plays - the pass to DeMarcus Nelson for a layup (which he missed)
elicited oohs and ahhs - and the alley-oop where he just caught the ball and
dropped it in, a la David Thompson, was gorgeous.

But the best thing about his game was that he really asserted himself and had
this immense impact. He also went to a jump hook several times, and may
have found his money move.

Those were probably the best parts of the game from Duke's point of
view. Certainly turnovers were not a highlight: Duke had 17, including
several at the end which could have been fatal had the game been much closer.

As a matter of fact, when Kent State was pushing to get back into it, there
was a key play by Paulus who knocked the ball loose. This was a really big
deal at the time because the lead had been shrinking, and Kent State was gaining
confidence. A lot of people may have thought, no way they could make it
up, but we remember a few years back when N.C. State came to town and Duke had a
five point lead with less than seven seconds. The game went into
overtime. It was an amazing turn of events.

Some of the changes Coach K alluded to recently started showing up, with
Scheyer becoming much more aggressive offensively, and with McRoberts playing
his most dominant basketball to date.

Lance Thomas, who has been a starter most of the season, only got six
minutes, during which time he picked up three fouls. Can't last long at
that rate. Gerald Henderson got 15 minutes and managed to grab five
boards and hit for three points.

Brian Zoubek didn't get much time, but that follows a pattern in the early
season: when Duke plays shorter teams, Zoubek's minutes drop. He would
have had a tough time chasing Quaintance (sounds like a professor in a Harry
Potter novel) around

After the game, Coach K suggested he wasn't happy with the defense, which
only showed up for the last 10 minutes or so of the game (according to K).
This isn't particularly unusual after exams, of course, when the team practices
minimally. It's particularly hard for a young team to keep to a high
standard, since in a basketball sense they barely know each other.

In several ways, Duke couldn't have asked for a better opponent at this
point: tough enough to push the Devils, but not enough players to make up
the gap.

It's a useful tuneup for what's to come Thursday, as Gonzaga travels back to
New York, where earlier in the season they conquered UNC in the NIT. Given
the perceived gap between UNC and Duke - the Heels blasted Florida Atlantic
105-52, but the halftime score was 65-18, which is pretty impressive - Gonzaga
will be a useful, if not entirely accurate, measurement