San Jose State may be 1-11, but that's a pretty solid 1-11 team.
They've had some tough knocks this season, between injuries and academic
suspensions, but they came into Cameron and played well before losing, 70-51. In particular,
they ran a disciplined fast break and were very opportunistic in the passing
lanes. They were quite outmatched, but they played to the limits of their
ability, and you can't ask for more than that.
For Duke, although the game was erratic, there were a number of good things,
starting with the play of Josh McRoberts.
A lot of people seem to want McRoberts to shoot a lot, but his game is more
subtle than that. He's as skilled a big man as Duke has seen in some time, and
should be discussed, skill-wise, with Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner, and
Carlos Boozer. Mike Gminski was a pure center and had tremendous skills,
but just strictly as a basketball player, McRoberts may have the best overall
skills at this point in his career as anyone else who has come along. He does
need to work on his shot, but really, the rest of his game is at a remarkable
level. Some guys spend a lifetime playing basketball and never gain his
understanding of the game. We really hope we get to see him play with Kyle
Singler. That could be a beautiful pair to watch.
McRoberts ended up with 13 points and 17 boards, along with three blocks and
five assists. That's a strange sort of stat line, a hybrid between big man
and point guard, but it's more and more fun to watch him.
Greg Paulus didn't play as well as he did against Gonzaga, but after the game
Coach K said he has suffered another injury. Tough setback. Here's
hoping he can pull it together and stay healthy.
Despite whatever happened, he shot well, going 5-9 and 2-5 from three point
range. He finished with 12 points, three assists, and two turnovers.
Like a number of people at various points in the game, DeMarcus Nelson forced
some action at times, which led to his four turnovers. But he also got to
the line several times, going 5-8 from there, and managed four assists.
We may have heard this wrong, but we think the first half turnovers
were 10 for Duke, and GoDuke credits Duke with 11 overall. That seems
wrong though. But if it's right, it's a nice correction, obviously.
Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson played reasonably well, although Scheyer has
played better. But his defense continues to impress, and his offensives
skills are not in question.
Henderson has taken a while to round into form, but he is beginning to get it
now, and as McRoberts and Paulus continue to pass well, and Nelson and Scheyer
get their share, the kid is a big beneficiary. He can develop a pretty fun
role this year just by running around and cutting in the lane. They'll get
him the ball if he does it.
Dave McClure had a quiet but effective game. He's become a reliable guy
and ended up starting the second half as a reward, presumably, for his solid
play. McRoberts is emerging as the next great Duke player (and perhaps the most
unconventional, certainly since Chris Carrawell), but McClure is emerging as
well, and becoming the indispensable sort of guy that every team needs, and too
many underappreciate. Too bad he couldn't do this last year.
And Martynas Pocius and Brian Zoubek (we're trying really hard to stop calling him Greg - Zoubek and Koubek and all that...our apologies to both) got some extended minutes, and Pocius in
particular showed a few moves and drew a charge, something which surely warned
Coach K's heart.
Zoubek got six rebounds in 11 minutes, but unfortunately drew three fouls as
well. His playing time is predicated on matchups this season - later his
size and strength will dictate the matchups; currently he's not strong enough to
force the other team to respond - but also on being able to stay on the court,
There was a part of the game from the end of the first half on into the
second half where Duke's struggles from earlier this season came back, and
scoring (and passing) somehow became difficult. Despite their underdog
status, San Jose State battled back and at the 18:10 mark in the second half cut
the lead to three. It was a gutty performance. A lot of 1-11 teams would
have just packed it in and made plans for the evening.
We were impressed with the Spartans. George Nessman, who took over last
season, has a career record of 7-35. On the surface, that's lousy, but
he's at a school with no tradition whatsoever. It's going to take some
time. But he's been there before.
Nessman coached Porterville College to a 178-176 record, including a 40
game win streak. That would tend to suggest that he has some idea of how
to coach. At Porterville, he was also the A.D. and the academic advisor
for all athletics, which is a lot of stuff for one guy.
He could certainly bomb out at SJSU, but his team is responding, and he's
clearly not scared of the challenge. We hope his school and the fans will
give him time to turn things around.