After several days between games and exams to boot, Duke started slow against Michigan, but the Devils eventually heated up and beat the Wolverines, 95-67. Duke has now defeated three Big Ten teams this season, and might as well claim first place in the league.
This game was basically even until Duke went on a huge run to close out the first half. Prior to that point, Coach K was not very happy with his team, criticizing transition defense in particular after the game.
Michigan picked up on the defensive lapses and started off well before Duke woke up. And in some respects they played well throughout, only coughing the ball up 15 times, for instance, despite huge pressure from the Devils.
Also providing pressure of a different kind was the outside shooting. As we've seen before this season, Duke is capable of scoring a lot of points from outside and in a big hurry. Happened in this game, too, as Duke hit jumpers in bunches and scored well from outside in transition.
Nolan Smith had his best game at Duke, scoring 17 on 7-9 shooting. Taylor King also came off the bench to score 18. Jon Scheyer hit for 10, Brian Zoubek for 7, and Dave McClure, whose minutes are starting to go up, hit a basket.
The bench outscored the starters 52-43.
Individually, there are a lot of things you could look at, but to us, the most impressive part of the game was a short stretch by Jon Scheyer in the first half where he was really, really in the flow of the game. Things just seemed to come to him. Basketball is a funny game sometimes - it looks easy, but there are a ton of variables and sometimes things just are difficult. But every so often, things just go right. Scheyer tapped into that for a few minutes. It's not box-score stuff, but it was beautiful to watch.
Beyond that, we thought Gerald Henderson had some solid moments. His athleticism is just breathtaking. At times you watch him climb up and it's like slow motion, and then boom! his hands are as high as anyone else's, be they 6 -5 or 6-11. He's becoming a much better basketball player this season, and he's learning how to attack with the framework of the offense and the defense. As evidence: four assists and seven boards in addition to his 12 points. Not a bad line.
Greg Paulus continues to give glimpses of the kind of player he can be when healthy, racking up six assists to no turnovers.
Lance Thomas had a forgettable game for the most part, although there is a big difference from last year: he can fight back now. He can work around the basket, get muscled, and go right back up. And his quickness is a huge asset defensively.
Kyle Singler didn't have one of his better games but expecting it every night from a freshman isn't fair. Nine points and four boards in 17 minutes isn't that bad.
And DeMarcus Nelson had a solid game, other than shooting 4-10.
Duke held Michigan to 37.9% from the floor and 6-19 from three point range for .316%.
This Michigan team is a long way from the Fab Five, but when they came out for warmups, even though they've struggled this season, there was still a sense that, hey, this is Michigan. It's amazing how long the aura of that class has hung around.
John Beilein has a radically different approach than Tommy Amaker had, and they guy has won everywhere he's been and he's going to win at Michigan, and probably win big. But it's going to take some time.
At the beginning of the game, you could see his team was executing the principles of the offense - the spacing and ball movement led to a number of open threes early. Hitting them is a different matter, of course, but they were doing the right things.
After Duke's defense woke up, though, they forced Michigan out of that sort of thing and into more freelancing. In a couple of years that'll be a lot harder to do.
His offense has been compared to Herb Sendek's N.C State offense, but there are two big differences: Beilein's isn't boring and his actually works.
Or rather, it has worked. It worked at Richmond, and West Virginia, and it'll work at Michigan, too. Once he gets the right guys in, the aura of Michigan basketball will return, and rather than a 28 point blowout, perhaps we'll be recalling the Fab Five, or Robert Traylor, or Cazzie Russell.
Duke and Michigan have put on some classic games over the years. They didn't do it Saturday, but expect Michigan to hold up their end of the deal before too much longer.