College basketball players tell me fewer things are more satisfying than shutting up a hostile crowd.
I watched Duke's 82-68 victory over Kansas State on ESPN2, just like the rest of you. So, I can't rule out the possibility that the studio technicians performed some sort of trickery.
But Kansas City's Sprint Center sure seemed awfully quiet as Duke closed out a victory in this season's first match between top five teams.
It wasn't perfect. A few too many fouls, not enough offensive rebounds, a bad last few seconds in the first half, the Reese's Peanut Butter genie reaching up and tripping players.
But it is November. And unless you're one of those folks who worries about peaking too soon, it's hard for any Duke fan to find much to complain about. Duke shot lights out from the field, got to the line and converted and hounded Kansas State star guard Jacob Pullen into a 1-12 nightmare.
The first half went about as well as Duke could have hoped. The Blue Devils controlled the ball much better than the previous night against Marquette, attacked off the dribble, hit threes, and forced turnovers.
Kansas State did lead early but never by very much; two points was Duke's biggest deficit. The Wildcats last lead was 13-12, about seven minutes into the game. There had been seven lead changes at that point.
Then Seth Curry made his impact felt. Curry didn't have a great game against Marquette, his first real game in the national spotlight. But he settled down a day later. His four-point play put Duke on top at 16-13, a lead the Blue Devils never relinquished. He then picked Will Spradling's pocket and added another steal, finding Andre Dawkins for a wide-open three in transition. Curry ended the game with five steals.
Nothing says Duke basketball better than a steal, followed by a basket in transition.
Duke went into halftime up 45-37. That was about the halftime margin held the previous night against Marquette.
And like Marquette, Kansas State made a run. Spurred on a by the partisan crowd, the local favorites stormed out of the locker room on a 4-1 run.
Then Singler hit a three and the Kansas State comeback went splat.
Oh, they hung around. They're a tough, athletic team with double-digit wins over Virginia Tech and Gonzaga already to their credit. But Duke controlled the final 17 minutes, never giving Kansas State any real hope and no doubt prompting some television viewers to look for their remotes.
Duke had contributions from lots places, including 22 bench points. But Smith and Irving dominated the game, blending aggression and control, attacking, distributing, and generally making much better decisions than they made the night before.
Best of all was their defense on Pullen. Remember, this is a player who averaged over 19 points per game last season and was a pre-season All-America this year. Sure, it looks like he misses departed point guard Dennis Clemente. But All-Americans don't go 1-12 without some help from the defense and Duke gave Pullen lots of help. By the end of the game, he looked like Mark Macon, circa 1988, looking for someplace else to be, anywhere else to be.
And Irving certainly demonstrated that the considerable pre-season hype was justified. That lay-up in traffic with about 12 minutes left was to die for.
It's still pretty early in the season and it might be wise not to draw too many conclusions from all this. Lots of November garlands have withered and died by February. But it certainly doesn't have that feel. This was a prime-time win.
It's tempting to think that this was inevitable. After all, what school is more familiar with prime-time games than the defending NCAA champions? But Irving and Curry didn't play college ball last season and the firm of Plumlee, Plumlee, Kelly and Dawkins combined for all of four points in last year's Final Four.
So business as usual for Duke, perhaps, but a rite-of-passage for this still young and developing team.
Duke now has won 15 straight games, dating back to last season's loss at College Park. Duke also has won 15 straight games on neutral sites. The last neutral-site loss was to Villanova in the 2009 NCAAs.
Fourth-ranked Kansas State is the highest ranked team defeated by Duke since third-ranked North Carolina fell in February 2008.
We're going to be inundated with Mike Krzyzewski factoids this season, as he advances up a number of career lists.
But let me throw a few at you that you might not be aware of. Last night's win gives Krzyzewski a 20-11 record in games in which both teams were ranked in the top five. Think about that. Two top five teams should be a definition of pick-'em. Not 20-11.
The win also makes Krzyzewski 171-24 in games when Duke was ranked number one. The winning percentage is impressive but what's really mind-boggling is the almost 200 games as number one, all since 1986. Many conferences haven't had that many games at number one.
Truly a golden age.
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