After a couple of losses and some mediocre defense in the last few games, Coach K decided to make a substantial change: he moved Jon Scheyer to the point and put Elliot Williams in at the other guard. While he was no doubt unhappy with how the closing minutes unfolded, the experiment on the whole, we'd say, worked rather well.
Williams is inexperienced and made some mistakes.Â But he undeniably added some zing to Duke.Â He made a number of really athletic plays, and they seemed fairly effortless.Â He also shot 5-6 and gave St. John's a lot to worry about.Â He made a great case for more time.
He was complimented by Kyle Singler, who also shot 5-6, and Lance Thomas, who is coming on nicely lately, and who shot 4-6.
Gerald Henderson went 4-12 and Jon Scheyer was 3-8.
One of the interesting aspects of this move, by the way, is that it lets Scheyer concentrate on playmaking and not worry as much about his shooting slump.
Duke only got four points from the bench, all from Miles Plumlee, who got eight minutes.
That sort of underscores some of the recent problems, since the point guard is supposed to key both the offense and the defense and both of Duke's primary point guards were unproductive.
Duke's offense certainly revived: despite Henderson and Scheyer both having poor shooting nights, Duke shot 53.5% from the floor and 46.7% from the three-point line.
Duke was very patient and efficient, and they also got to the line a lot, with 33 trips (making 23 of them) to the Johnnies' 16, of which they hit 13.
Good thing the offense was clicking.Â Despite St. John's youth, and their injury problems (star Anthony Mason Jr. is out for the year and point guard Malik Boothe was out for several games recently with a thumb injury), St. John's shot 54% from the game.
They broke Duke's defense down more often than they should have, getting easy baskets on too many occasions.
In particular, the end of the game was uneasy.
Duke was up 14 with 4:05 left and they should have, to borrow Henderson's recent words, kept their foot on St. John's collective throat.
St. John's made an impressive late rally, aided by missed free throws by Singler and Scheyer, a couple of foolish fouls on St. John's drives, and some sloppy ballhandling.Â Toss in getting trapped on the baseline, and you have the potential for disaster.
St. John's cut the lead from 14 to five, and, as Bob Knight pointed out, they weren't all that far from being able to force overtime.Â A break here or there and it was a very different game.
Whatever was responsible for Duke's recent funk, it's good to see them scoring well.Â Letting St. John's shoot that well, leave alone the comeback, is cause for concern.
Incidentally, Duke's defense would have probably been better had Dave McClure been able to play.Â The versatile forward was ill and stayed back at the hotel.