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Duke Gets By Drury, 85-61

Drury Played Their Hearts Out

Almost Blue: The Devils Flirted With Disaster Against Drury Saturday
Almost Blue: The Devils Flirted With Disaster Against Drury Saturday

There's two things you should understand about the Drury game: first, Duke didn't play well for about 25 minutes or so. And secondly, Drury did. They're smaller, the players are less celebrated and no one is looking at an NBA career.

That said, they are tough, defend exceptionally well, especially inside, and competed brilliantly before losing their first game since early January of last year. Drury is an exceptionally well coached team.

As for Duke, as Coach K said afterwards, this is still a young team (four freshmen, two sophomores, three redshirt sophomores, one junior, two seniors and grad student Andre Dawkins) with a lot to learn.

They probably got a start on their lessons at halftime, when Coach K kept them in until the break had dwindled to about 1:30.

We've never been in the locker room at the half, much less after a particularly bad first half, but there are some second hand reports to fall back on: when Duke played Steve Alford's Southwest Missouri State team in the NCAAs and had a lousy first half, Alford & co. could hear the Duke locker room.

"You hear that?" Alford asked his team. "You'd better be ready for what's coming out of that locker room!"

And second is Geno Auriemma, the brilliant women's coach at UConn.

Before he moved to UConn, he was an assistant at UVa, and he and another assistant learned that in University Hall, the ducts would allow you to listen to the opposing locker room. He marveled, he said, at Coach K after one poor game up there and noticed that a very different team came out  in the second half.

It's surely not all screaming and ranting, because that doesn't work for anyone and we're sure he heard his share of negativity from his own college coach, Bobby Knight. But we're pretty sure there's a lot of confrontation and challenges and brutal honesty.

Whatever the mix is, when a Coach K team comes out of the locker room after a bad half, more often than not, it's about to take someone to the woodshed.

It took a few minutes against Drury, but Duke finally got going on offense and defense and we saw a hint at least of what we came to see.

Rasheed Sulaimon didn't play due to illness, and we wondered if anyone else had a touch of whatever got him. If so, it was chased off by the second half.

After Drury outworked and outsmarted Duke in the first half, Duke did turn it around, and suddenly, Drury had a hard time scoring.

And once that happened, Duke had a correspondingly easier time on their end as well.

Shots began to fall, balls began to fall into Duke's hands, the court opened up and all was well in Blue Devil Land.

Duke began to match Drury's swagger and then surpassed it.

Take Rodney Hood, for example. In the first half, he seemed tentative and unsure and would not challenge the lane. In the second he played much more aggressively, finishing with 21 points and nine boards.

Freshman Jabari Parker for the most part didn't look as good as his reputation suggested, but on a couple of occasions he was spectacular. On one play, he went after a block and got a goaltending call, but it was the sort of leap that made everyone explode: can he really do that? Parker finished with 13 points (3-8)  and three rebounds.

Amile Jefferson started slow but finished with 13 points and 16 boards, half offensive (Drury made following those shots very tough). Hood and Jefferson had half of Duke's assists.

Quinn Cook finished with 13, Matt Jones with nine, Tyler Thornton with six, Josh Hairston with three and Alex Murphy and Semi Ojeleye with two apiece. Ojeleye's came on a spectacular follow. Marshall Plumlee and Andre Dawkins both played but neither scored. Plumlee's size clearly flummoxed Drury when he was in in the first half.

Also worth mentioning: Duke continued an early ACC trend of horrible free throw shooting, hitting just 53.6% - and that with Parker hitting 7-8. Take him out and the team hit just 8-27.

So what to make of this outing? Not too much, probably: it is a young group after all, was without perhaps its best defender and just starting the season. And they righted the ship.

But don't think for a minute that because the problems were acknowledged doesn't mean they won't be addressed, and with immediate intensity.

They will. Young team or not, we feel pretty safe saying that Davidson will probably see a very different Duke.

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