Duke's win over Miami was a much-needed tonic in a season which - so far -
has found the young Devils struggling on offense and learning to communicate
with each other. There were some things in this game to quibble with, but
it was, without question, very encouraging.
Start with the sensation first half shooting, which was sensational.
81% is about as close to perfect as a basketball team is likely to come.
It's the best first half performance in Duke history. Duke finished with
68% for the game.
Greg Paulus, Jon Scheyer, and DeMarcus Nelson combined to shoot 16-24; Nelson
Josh McRoberts had a somewhat quiet game with 11 points and five boards, but
he racked up five assists and had some gorgeous plays along the way. He
also had four turnovers.
Jon Scheyer had his best scoring day of his career with 25, with 11 of those
points coming on 11 foul shots. Not bad.
Dave McClure had another super rebounding night with 11 boards.
Rebounding is really the art of anticipation and understanding where the ball is
likely to go and getting your butt there before someone else does, and he's got
a keen and developing ability to do that.
Lance Thomas got into foul trouble early in the second half, but he played
more aggressively than he has for most of the season and got perhaps his first
assist of the year (as Barry Jacobs pointed out a couple of games back, he had
gone deep into the year without one).
Gerald Henderson didn't get huge numbers, but he's clearly understanding the
offense and the defense better. He's getting ready for a breakout game
very soon. He has more raw talent than anyone on the team, and he's going
to make his team a lot better in the near future.
Brian Zoubek, as we've seen in other games against smaller teams, got limited
minutes, but that will change as he gets stronger and more agile.
Duke - largely Nelson - held Miami's Jack McClinton to five points. As
the competition has increased, his productivity has slowed down. But he's still
streaky and dangerous, and Nelson kept him in check.
Brian Asbury had a solid game for Miami with 19 points, and Anthony Harris
hit 14 before he went out with an injury, joining several other Miami players
who are out either for a good while or for the whole season.
Duke got an inspirational performance from Greg Paulus, before and after he
was injured. He shot well, and ran the team well early in the game, and
showed a toughness which this team needs. But after he suffered a shoulder
injury in the second half, Paulus really showed what he can bring to this
He left the game in a fair amount of pain but came back in a few minutes
later, out of necessity, and was clearly in pain, unable or unwilling to let his
arm down. But a few minutes later, he scored on a layup in traffic, and
for the rest of the game, though he was clearly in pain, he did a superb job of
leading his team.
It wasn't exactly Willis Reid, but it did (along with the Gonzaga game)
remind people why Duke went after him. He's struggled some this year -
here's hoping his latest injury doesn't set him back - but he is a very, very
tough kid. Good to see him show it again.
And his gutty leadership was augmented by Nelson, who just killed Miami down
low. Miami has been reduced to a small team by attrition, but nonetheless,
Nelson found his way to the basket a lot.
A lot of the success Duke had in running the ball was due to Paulus's
decisions on the run.
As we mentioned, there were some issues for Duke. After a solid first
half of taking care of the ball, Duke still ended up with 16 turnovers. McRoberts fouled out; Nelson and Thomas picked up four apiece.
And in some ways a close victory might have been better. Duke had
their foot on Miami's collective neck near the end of the first half, with a
45-29 lead, but went into halftime up only 49-40. It wasn't quite a
collapse, but when you have someone down, it's better to keep them there.
The pattern almost repeated itself at the end, as Miami came close to pushing
back into the game. Duke panicked a bit once or twice - youth rises - and
Miami cut the lead to 15. That seems like a lot, but look what happened in
Blacksburg on Saturday: Virginia Tech held almost the same lead with about
3 minutes left against UNC and just barely won.
Duke took big steps Sunday towards effective communication, good spacing, and
solid ball movement. If they can build on that, their next challenge is
going to be managing the ends of close games. That, too, comes down to
trusting and relying on each other, principles they applied very effectively