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Nolan Contendere! Duke 74, Miami 63

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For part of the first half, Miami hung with Duke reasonably well, then two things happened which more or less settled things.

At the 11:36 mark, foul-prone Reggie Johnson picked up his second foul, and about six minutes later, Nolan Smith, irritated after being called for a charge, started to rip off 13 straight points to put Duke up 35-22. The Devils never looked back.

Aside from Johnson's early foul trouble, Miami had trouble shooting in general and specifically from outside:  they hit 36.9% overall and went into the closing minutes having hit just one three pointer.  They hit two more to finish 3-17, but those were irrelevant.

Johnson finished with 22 points and nine boards and picked up two more fouls in the second half, including one declared intentional.

The fact that he finished 9-10 from the floor also masked the fact that Duke otherwise defended very well:  the other starters were just 11-43 for 25.5%.

Star guards Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott finished with 11 and 10 points respectively with each shooting 4-13.

As poorly as Miami shot, they still caused Duke problems and could have been within three if they had hit their free throws.  The 'Canes were physical and athletic enough to give Duke trouble around the basket, but not enough to matter.

Of Duke's frontcourt players, Kyle Singler was 5-15, Miles Plumlee was 2-7, and Mason Plumlee was 1-5. Only Ryan Kelly was in positive territory, finishing 4-5 and playing tougher inside than the Plumlees.

Seth Curry got skunked, shooting 0-4, but Andre Dawkins finished 5-9

Still, given the intensity of both defenses, this game was never going to be beautiful.

Like Everett Case, who brought running basketball to what became the ACC, and Dean Smith, whose sophisticated offensive schemes challenged the rest of the league, Mike Krzyzewski has forced the other teams in the ACC to come to terms with his hardnosed defense.  With teams like Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech, FSU, Brad Brownell's Clemson and Miami, the ACC is the furthest thing from a finesse league.

You could see this in Sunday night's game, with body's periodically flying under the basket.

Miami is, or should be, a threat in any game given their athleticism and their willingness to focus on defense.   If they had a forward who could produce offensively and consistently, they'd be a tremendous team.  Lacking that, they are forced to rely heavily on Scott, Grant and Johnson.

A word about Johnson:  when he started school, he was a blob.  The guy has completely transformed his body and he is a significant force around the basket.  Not only is he possibly the strongest guy in the conference, he's become much quicker.

What he has the potential to become is a lesser version of Moses Malone, a guy who can bang relentlessly, hit the boards, and earn his keep the old-fashioned way.  If he can learn how to stay out of foul trouble and is good for 10-15 rebounds a night, the NBA will have room for him.

On another note, it's really good to see Miles Plumlee starting to assert himself. It's been going on for a few games now, and you can see his confidence surging.  Add his solid play, particularly on defense, to what Kelly has been doing, and Mason's periodic outbursts (despite a poor offensive night he had 10 rebounds and made a lot of smart decisions), and all Duke really needs from their big men is a consistent scorer inside.

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