We could have told them.Â We could have told Jacob Pullen when he more or less said that transition was everything and they didn't even want to have to get into a half-court offense.Â We could have told columnist Bob Lutz, who said Duke had to be ready for what they were going to face.Â Kansas State is a talented team but like a lot of teams they play like a boxer aiming for a first-round knockout.Â When it doesn't happen, what's next?Â You have to have something besides a haymaker. Talented though they are, Kansas State didn't have that.
This comes from coach Frank Martin, who coaches like the bouncer he once was.Â As he once stared at miscreants across the bar, he stares at his players, officials, and the other team.Â His team buys into it and a lot of opponents get scared, but that doesn't work all that often with Duke.Â Look who has tried it over the years:Â Georgetown.Â Arkansas (they were smarter the second time). Closer to home, Maryland and Clemson.
Once you're basically punched out, what's next?Â For Kansas State, as it turned out, not that much.
The other thing which people misunderstood was Kansas State's three point performance against Gonzaga.Â They hit what, their first nine? So naturally that would happen in their next game, right?
The same mistake was made by too many people after Duke dismantled West Virginia last spring.Â Surely they would do it to Butler as well.
As it happens, Duke, a very good three point team, had their great offensive game in the semis.Â As for K-State, they have had one great performance thus far this season from three point range.Â There was absolutely no reason to think it would happen twice in a row, much less against a team that defends the shot so well (the Wildcats shot 17.6%).
It was nip and tuck for the first seven minutes or so, and Kansas State went up 11-9.Â But that was it. After that, it was all Duke, and mostly Duke's backcourt.
Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving sliced up K-State with 17 each, but Irving completely dominated senior All-American Jacob Pullen, who, on this night anyway, was completely outclassed.
Irving blew by him repeatedly, and Pullen simply could not stop him.Â Nor could he score himself:Â he was just 1-12 from the floor, and had four turnovers.
Martin should thank his lucky stars for Curtis Kelly, who was 8-11 for 19 points.Â He kept the game from being a complete blowout.
For Duke, this was a really great game, not just for the obvious get, but also for establishing credibility.
They beat the #3 team in the country in their own backyard, did it soundly, owned their All-American guard and essentially re-defined their whole season.
It's clear to them, or should be, that punchers can win a bar fight but not necessarily a boxing match.
Having said that, we should understand this:Â this is a talented team and they'll learn from this.Â If we play them again down the road, it won't be the same sort of game.Â They're still trying to adjust to playing without Denis Clemente.Â In January, this'll be a battle-hardened bunch.
But we should also point this out: we have not yet come close to seeing this team get near it's potential.Â If we ever see the four guards, Singler, and the three big men all play great at the same time, the potential is staggering.
And lest we forget, congrats to Coach K for his 800th win at Duke. It's been a thrilling ride.
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