For a while in the first half, with Duke unable to score and unable to stop
Georgetown's cuts to the basket and outside shooting, it was hard to see how
Duke was going to pull this one out. But the Devils have always made
tremendous adjustments at halftime, both strategically and psychologically, and
the same thing happened in this game. Duke limited Georgetown to six
second-half field goals, they cut off the drives to the basket, and throttled
the three point shooting. If you can do that to any team, you're
playing great defense. If you can do that to a team running the Princeton
offense, you've really done something.
Duke went into this season knowing they
had to overcome the loss of their greatest offensive performer and one of their
greatest defensive performers. There's still a bit of a J.J. hangover, but
remarkably, they have pretty much adjusted to the absence of Shelden Williams,
as their interior defense (reflecting their overall defense) is arguably
stronger and is one of the more interesting developments of the early ACC
season. Keep in mind how young they are: how much can they improve
As we said, the offensive performance in the early part of
the game was dismal. After DeMarcus Nelson made two threes in the first
minute, Duke had four straight turnovers and didn't score again until Marty
Pocius hit a three at the 11:45 mark, which made it 14-9. Duke went into the
half down 34-27.
One of the real keys to the first half was the play of Marty
Pocius, who had perhaps his best game at Duke and showed his considerable
potential, and also helped spark Duke's rally.
In the second half, Duke's
defensive dominance became pretty evident. Georgetown scored baskets at
the 17:33, 14:17, 12:18, 11:29, 6:34, and 0:46 marks.
But just as
importantly, Greg Paulus and Jon Scheyer came alive offensively, scoring 22
points, outscoring Georgetown in the period. Paulus has been rehabbing
after his foot injury, and has taken a lot of criticism, most of it not
well-considered. He's catching up and reconditioning himself, and of
course his game suffered. But Saturday, he showed his worth not just by
scoring, but by having the ability to really stick the knife in
Georgetown. He had a big jumper, a key steal and layup, and those plays
were backbreakers. Is Greg Paulus a world-class athlete? No. Does he
have the nerve to take charge of a game and shove it into his back pocket?
Hell, yes. And that nerve will prove contagious as the season goes on.
nice aspect of this game was watching Josh McRoberts start to assert
himself. Everyone can see the talent - 6 -10 guys who can lead the break
and pass brilliantly don't come along that often - but he hasn't been willing to
take over on offense. Is it a coincidence that he stepped it up during the
game when Paulus truly returned? Possibly so. But what a nice bit of
timing if so.
We'll see how things pan out from here, but certainly
Duke has to take a lot of positives away from this game: a growing
confidence in the defense, an offensive awakening, although still fitful, and
the capacity to respond to a body blow by a good and improving bunch of Hoyas.
At the end of the game, Coach K was clearly excited, unusually so in fact, as he
urged the crowd to applaud the effort they were witnessing. As well they
should. There will likely be more rough spots as this team evolves, but
it's fairly rare to see a team grow so quickly in such a short period of
time. Where they go from here should be fun to watch.