Balance. One team had it, the other didn’t and in the end, that was the deciding factor. On paper, you probably couldn’t tell. Duke had five players score double figures, while Virginia had four, but two Cavaliers took 31 of the teams 58 shots.
With this one in the bag, all the attention turns to Duke/North Carolina fighting it out for the ACC Regular season crown (and maybe the #1 seed). Before we move on though, let’s take a quick look at tonight’s game.
We already talked about balance in the scoring department, but two more things. First, not only did they score, they shot well. Six players shot 50% or better. Second, ten players got on the court tonight, all of them got playing time in the first half. I keep worrying Coach K will shorten the bench, but he didn’t tonight. Zoubek especially got solid minutes in the first half.
Singler’s mini-slump had me worried coming into the game (1-10 from behind the stripe). Tonight he didn’t really break that slump. He went 8-21 from the floor (2-9 from three). However, it was nice to see coach continue to give him the green light. The kid needs to break this slump and the only way out is being aggressive. One way he could improve this coming weekend is to get back to driving to the lane. He either shot a long three (7 of his 12 misses) or by living under the rim and scoring by either receiving a solid pass or grabbing an offensive rebound. Against Hansbrough, he’s going to have to take advantage of his quickness and force Tyler to cover him away from the basket.
It looks like Coach K has decided that Nolan Smith will only get about 10-15 minutes per game now. He’s only broken 20 minutes once in the last month (and that was in an ass-kicking). In fact, Scheyer was running the point for a little while tonight. This has been a bit of a disappointment, since I thought he was doing better. However, he is a point and he needs to play like one to be on the floor. Back in January he had four straight games of four assists. Since then he’s played in 13 games. Take away his five-assist game against St. Johns and Smith has only produced a total of three assists.
- Gerald Henderson’s wrist may still be hurt, but he’s no longer showing the ill effects of it. He led the team with 19 points and showed complete confidence in both his drives and his long-range jumper.
- Although I won’t make Paulus the player of the game, it was his scoring early on that set the tone for Duke. While Singletary was having a field day with the Blue Devil’s defense, Paulus matched him point-for-point, actually outscoring him 11-9 in the first ten minutes. By the way, nice shiner.
- Tonight will probably be Duke’s last chance to face Virginia’s Sean Singletary. He looked so great coming out of the gate, at least one step ahead of everyone else on the floor. However, like all Cavaliers tonight, he just ran out of gas (Note: Due to a makeup game, Virginia had to play three games in five days). He had a hand in 13 of their 27 baskets, either by scoring or dishing the assist.
- Overall I don’t feel like Virginia played a bad game. Early on they found so much success driving through the lane. The Duke defenders were often left standing alone with their hands up, as the driver simply pulled up for a solid mid-range jumper. With Duke being so successful at earning/getting charges called, you often hear announcers saying over and over again that the opposing team needed to do this. It was almost a pleasant surprise to see a team finally do it and do it well, at least until…
Duke went to a zone. We all know Coach K has experimented with the zone this year (thanks to his time with Team USA). However, he usually only uses it for a few moments, just to show a team a different look. Tonight, he went zone at about the 8:30 mark in the 1st half. After the Cavaliers nailed a three on their first possession facing the zone, they would not score another basket for the remainder of the first half. Duke would go on a 15-point run that would basically seal the deal. This stretch of zone may be the longest Coach K has ever used the zone in his basketball career.
Lance Thomas stat watch (More points and rebounds than fouls): Tonight he didn’t give us much to work with. He had one point, two rebounds and one foul in 16 minutes.
- Hey Cavalier fans, did your team commit a single foul tonight? I know it’s customary to boo calls against your team, but tonight was a little much. They viciously booed every single call that went against the Cavs. Personally, it was one of the better games called. The refs only blew the whistle 28 times (Duke 15, Virginia 13). It was a clean game and the refs did a good job.
- The stat lines were pretty even tonight. Duke forced three more turnovers, but Virginia had three more blocks. Duke had one more rebound, but Virginia won the foul battle, but only by two. How did Duke win by 16? Simple…they took seven more shots, made six more shots and they made six more three’s.
- Duke went to the slowdown spread at the 9:30 mark in the second half. They ran it perfectly, outscoring the Cavaliers 15-11.
FAVORITE MOMENT: On back-to-back possessions, Nelson and Henderson executed near perfect drive and dish for threes to each other. Although Henderson missed his (Singler scored on the rebound), it showed, despite our lack of a true post player, exactly the thing teams will have to deal with come tournament time.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Gerald Henderson…he looked in control all night on both ends of the floor. He was 8-13 from the floor and his solid free throw shooting continued.
PROPS GO TO: Sean Singletary…despite the fact he had little gas in the tank, he kept Virginia in the game for the most part. Although I’m glad he’s gone and we don’t have to face him again (unless it’s in the ACC tournament), I’ll be sad to see him go.