Duke’s win over UNC Saturday was big just because it’s Duke and UNC, but there was a lot more than just that.
First, it was an important milestone for a young team. Duke has become a solid defensive team, at times verging on elite.
We saw this in several ways Saturday. First, Dereck Lively had a monster game with 14 rebounds and eight blocks. But more than that, he really challenged Armando Bacot, and we weren’t sure that he could because Bacot is a load inside. He’s tremendously strong and is a superb rebounder and banger. We got to see him much closer than we usually do and he’s really physical. There was a lot more shoving and pushing than you might think from TV and it’s not just Bacot. He gets pushed back - as he should expect.
But Lively more than held his own. He’s not scoring tons, but if he can get double figures in rebounds and nearly double figures in blocks, who the hell cares? Lively was a devastating weapon Saturday. We thought that he might get in foul trouble, but instead, it was Bacot who finished with four.
Kyle Filipowski was not a devastating weapon like he has been, but it wasn’t entirely his fault. Filipowski got pretty beaten up. He hit the floor several times and didn't get up quickly every time either. We didn't count how many times he hit the floor, but one clearly hurt and the last one, near the end of the game, saw him on the floor for some time before he defiantly sprinted back to the huddle.
We see these guys from a distance but they feel the bruises and it won’t surprise us if he’s sore Monday at Miami.
Tyrese Proctor also didn’t shoot particularly well, but he had seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. He’s much more confident now than he was earlier in the season when he kind of got thrown in there to sink or swim.
He’s swimming pretty well now, and at times his confidence verges on a positive arrogance. He’s grown by leaps and bounds and is running Duke’s offense very well.
We didn't immediately realize what heavy minutes the starters pulled. Jeremy Roach played 40, Proctor 38, Filipowski 35 and Lively 34. Only Mark Mitchell, with 28, played less than 30
They got through it okay but Monday at Miami is not going to be easy. That’s now arguably a bigger test than is UNC.
Speaking of UNC, a couple of notes. As we thought, replacing Brady Manek hasn’t been easy. Manek was a superb sniper, and he could really kill you from the perimeter. But more importantly, he made you choose your poison: stop him or stop Bacot. You couldn’t do both.
This is not a knock on Pete Nance, but he isn’t capable of filling that role. He shot 1-10 against Duke - Filipowski had a lot to do with that - but the idea that he could be Manek 2.0, we hope, is over now. He has his own strengths, but he’s not able to do what Manek did.
Davis hasn’t been able to figure this problem out. Not many people could. Maybe Mike Krzyzewski might make it work, but he might also be just as likely to move Nance to the bench and try something different. Who knows?
Speaking of Davis, he complained after the game, more than once, that his team had gone to the line 150 times more than their opponents but that the Tar Heels only went to the line three times against Duke.
Well, boo hoo. UNC got called for 14 fouls; Duke got called for 12. It’s not like there was some wild inconsistency there, and we can bet you Filipowski could have pointed out a few they missed.
Maybe he was upset because Duke defended the interior without fouling as much as Bacot is used to drawing. And that’s ironic. Why?
Because Bacot has been a battering ram for his entire UNC career. We saw it last year when he grabbed a Louisville player by the leg and tripped him from where he lay on the floor. You don’t have to look far to see him pushing and shoving people. He honestly gets away with more rough stuff than almost anyone else in the conference.
Of Duke’s 15 fouls shots, seven of them were by Filipowski and four by Jeremy Roach. Why?
Because they got to the basket.
How many times did you see Nance, Love or Davis get inside? Not very often. Leaky Black had a nice game for UNC, but six of his shots were three point attempts and UNC took 27 threes compared to Duke’s 11 attempts. That’s nearly 40 percent of UNC’s shots, and perimeter jumpers tend to cut down on your chances of getting fouled because most fouls are going to be when you move.
What he should really be happy about is that Bacot gets away with so much. He got called for four Saturday, but if you go back and watch the video, you’ll see plenty of things that he could have been called for but wasn't.
You tell Hubert. He doesn’t know, and he might appreciate figuring it out.