Saturday, we said we had a hunch that Brian Zoubek might be the difference in this game, but we didn't see a dominant performance coming against Maryland. Yet that's exactly what Zoubek provided: 16 points and 17 rebounds - eight of them offensive - is pretty dominant by any standard.
Maryland had no answer for the big guy and the mismatches that we feared might turn their way - smaller, speedier players against Duke's size - actually worked almost entirely for Duke.
Maryland's three guard offense -- Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, and Sean Mosley -- combined for 29, but 17 of those were by Vasquez, and most of those came late -- too late to make a difference.
Nolan Smith mostly defended Vazquez and held him to two points for the first half. Vasquez did score nine points in a hurry in the second half to cut the lead to 10. That was about it for Maryland, a last gasp before Duke pushed the lead back out.
As for Hayes, he scored four of his eight points in the first three minutes before Duke clamped down. He also had four turnovers, and at least three of them really contributed to Duke's momentum.
Mosley was limited to four points.
While we were somewhat skeptical about Jordan Williams as a freshman, he did manage to score six points and grabbed seven rebounds. Not a huge performance, but better than senior teammate Landon Milbourne, who ended up 1-6 from the floor and managed just three rebounds.
For Duke, while Zoubek was the primary story, the Devils got solid performances from Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, and Nolan Smith. Of the Big Three, only Scheyer reached 50% from the floor, but it was a great effort from all three. We've already talked about Smith's defense, but Singler's was superb as well. This was most obvious on two spectacular blocked shots, but he was matched up much of the game against smaller players and more than held his own.
And also playing well, despite his injured knee, was Lance Thomas. As is often the case with Thomas, you can't measure his value through the box score because it's often hard to quantify defense. You can't really measure footwork or reaction time, but Thomas played well.
Off the bench, Mason Plumlee had a solid game. He finished with seven points and three rebounds and one spectacular assist to Smith.
After the game, when he was asked about frustration and his team, Gary Williams had one of the better recent quotes in ACC basketball:
âThereâs no frustration allowed. Whatâs frustrating about playing a college game on national television against the eighth ranked team in the country? If youâre frustrated, grow up, thatâs life. Theyâre going to be frustrated by guys yelling at them when they get a job. Frustration comes from, if youâre really playing well then you get a few bad calls, thatâs frustration. Frustration isnât not running your offense well or screening out; thatâs not playing well.â
He also had this to say about Zoubek: âNo I havenât seen Zoubek [play as well as he did]. He should be getting a lot of credit with what heâs done with himself as a basketball player from where he was as a freshman to where he is now. He is a guy that really found a way to enjoy his college basketball career, which is a great thing. Itâs nice to see that happen to people and heâs doing a great job.â
He is absolutely correct about this. Lots of guys come to college and expect to be stars, and after year or two, give in to, well, frustration and end up leaving. Zoubek is an example for everyone who sticks it out. There's a lot to be said for just sticking things out.
For Coach K's part, he had this to say about Zoubek: "Remember, Brian has been hurt a lot in his career. For over a year, off and on, he was either playing orâ¦for more than a yearâ¦ coming off a broken foot. He has been completely healthy and has taken great care of himself. Today, it is obvious to everybody what he did, but really, he has had an outstanding year thus far. He knows what we are doing. He is a very good talker out on the court, not to the other team, but to his team. He knows where people are supposed to be. He is a very intelligent player.â
With the win, Duke seizes control of the conference race. Unlike everyone else, they can control their destiny. There are still tough games with Miami, Virginia Tech, a first matchup with Tony Bennett at Virginia, at Maryland, which will be no picnic, and UNC at home.
Still, everyone else (meaning Maryland, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech) has to wait for Duke to lose to have a hope of finishing first. It's not a bad position to be in.
This was of course a special day in Cameron: Coach K's 1000th game in the old barn and his 63rd birthday as well.
It was also a homecoming for dozens of former players. During his 30 years in 1000 games, Krzyzewski has set a standard that even he at times has trouble living up to. Alone among NCAA coaches, his seasons are measure by Final Fours.
Yet look around. Jim Calhoun and Roy Williams are probably NIT bound. Ben Howland will be lucky to make that. Rick Pitino is just 15-9 at Louisville. Billy Donovan had back-to-back NIT teams and has not yet nailed down a bid this year.
Yet Duke rolls on. Another 30 win season is possible. What's happened at Duke under Krzyzewski is simply amazing.
Finally, when given the chance to address the rumors about the Nets, Coach K responded with a classic Krzyzewskism: "The guyâs Russian, right? You think heâd hire a Polish guy? No oneâs contacted me, and if they do, I think ânyetâ would be easy for me to say."
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