Go ahead and admit it, you were a little worried. I was, at least until Duke took what appeared to be a solid 54-46 lead with 7:28 left in the game. Then the Eagles ran off seven straight and suddenly I was worried again and remained worried until the buzzer. Don’t feel guilty Duke faithful, tonight’s Duke team gave you plenty of reasons to worry.
You have to hand it to Boston College, they struggled at times, but they never gave up. Despite the early shooting woes (two points in the first nine minutes of the game), they rallied to take a five-point lead at the half. When Duke got hot in the second half and took a eight-point lead, they rallied again with a 7-0 run. However, in the end, I believe it was over-coaching that did them in. Think about it, they grabbed the Scheyer miss free throw with fourteen clicks on the clock and what do they do? They call a timeout. Why though? You have one of the best (and fastest) guards in the nation, let him hurry the ball up while a frustrated Duke team is running back and let Rice do his thing. I don’t have a stat to prove it, but I could swear more game winners come not after a timeout, but a play that happens in the natural flow of the game.
Then coming out of the timeout, they get the ball pass half court and call yet another timeout. So obviously they have a plan, right? If they did, it didn’t involve getting the ball into the hands of their best player. On that last play, Rice came off ONE screen that took him completely to the other side of the court, away from the inbound pass. I’m sorry, but when Duke had J.J., there was no way any other player was going to take the last second shot. Coach K would have had him run through multiple screens. Anyhow, let’s move on.
- Why did this game come down to the wire? Two reasons; first – Missed free throws. Duke missed nine free throws, six in the second half. Gerald Henderson missed five for the game and four in the second half. In fact, he missed three in one trip down the floor. Worse yet, John Scheyer missing the front end of the one-and-one with under a minute to go…wow.
- Free throw shooting was bad, but it was second chance points that nearly did in the Devils. Duke gave up 15 offensive rebounds. I know what you’re saying; Duke had 13 offensive rebounds. That’s true, but you have to look deeper. At least a half-dozen times, Duke had a defensive rebound in their hands, but let the ball bounce out of bounds, giving BC another shot. That’s how Boston College manage to take 13 more shots than Duke for the game, despite the fact the teams were even in free throws (20) and turnovers (8).
- Despite all that went wrong, was there any question who was going to take Duke’s last shot, down one with under a minute to go? And was there any doubt he was going to make it? Coach K called a beautiful play coming out of the timout, swinging Gerald into a post position. I still can’t believe BC didn’t double down. His wrap around the defender was too easy.
- Singler did his best ‘Hansbrough against Va Tech’ performance, literally putting the team on his shoulders as Gerald sat in the first half in foul trouble. He finished with 26 points, 9 boards and shockingly 6 blocks. He came into the game with only 26 blocks. The advantage that Duke has is that they have two solid NBA ready players. If one is off his game, the other has stepped up. In fact, over the last month, one has produced in one half, while the other produced in the second half.
- Live by the three, die by the three. Tonight, at least in the second half, the Blue Devils lived by it. After a 2-11 first half, Duke nailed 7-9 in the second half.While Henderson’s late three was the most important of the game, the best one to watch go down was Nolan Smith’s in the second half. We need Nolan to get anywhere in the tournament and that one had to feel good.
- Eliiot had an off night shooting, but he still grabbed eight rebounds and bugged the hell out of Tyrese Rice. In fact, Rice (a first-team All-ACC player on this site, missed twice as many shots as he made (5-15), but four of his makes came against someone other than Elliot guarding him. I believe most of Rice’s points came when Singler switched off onto him at the top of the key.
- One other concern was assists, or lack of assists. Duke had only eight assists for the game, well below their 13.7 average for the season. Despite running a motion offense, Duke tended to get into a little too much one-on-one action. Where were the dish and drives? Would it kill them to attempt a single pass into the post?
- Is it really going to end like this for Greg Paulus? Against Carolina on Sunday, he didn’t touch the court in the second half. Against BC tonight, he played one more minute than the Duke walk ones. While Paulus has been a bit of a disappointment as the years have gone on, you’re telling me he has nothing to offer this squad on the court? It’s not shocking, but it is disappointing. He’s given so much to this team and taken so much shit from fans, you have to feel a bit sorry for the guy.
- The Big’s. We talked about it all season. What can Thomas, Zoubek, McClure and Plumleee (Duke’s four big men) do as a combined unit? Tonight, not much. Two shots, five points (all Thomas). They did manage eight rebounds, a couple assists and a couple blocks, but let’s be serious for a second? Duke isn’t going deep with these kind of numbers, no matter what Singler/Scheyer/Henderson do.
- One last note. As a Duke fan, I’m loving the single game ticket sales…at least for a night. In the past when you had to buy tournament passes, the crowds would turn on any favorite, especially the Blue Devils, making it feel like a road game. In the Georgia Dome, the crowd noise was about even for both teams. It was kind of funny seeing the Carolina baby blue’s sitting behind the Duke bench, but in reality, they never really loudly cheered against Duke until the final minutes.
While we’re here, let’s hit on some random thoughts on the other ACC quarterfinals games.
North Carolina 79 Virginia Tech 76.
Tech, they had ‘em. They did. Twice, with less than five to play, the Hokies had a three-point lead and forced a Carolina miss. Both times, the Tar Heels grabbed the offensive board and scored. They had them and they let them rebound their way back into it. However, the foul calling was less-than-impressive. I don’t care what you think about Duke getting all the calls, has any player benefited from ‘fantom’ fouls more than Tyler Hansbrough? Worse yet, with a little over a minute to play in the second half, Carolina had three fouls to give! That means they were called for a total of three fouls in the first 18+ minutes of the second half.
Florida State 64 Georgia Tech 62
Despite shooting 49% to Tech’s 36%, Florida State needed a Derwin Kitchen miracle drive to pull out a W over a bad Georgia Tech team. Although it’s not quite a miracle when the Yellow Jackets defense gave an open lane like that in the final seconds. The Seminoles can once again thank Tony Douglas, who shot 11-16, scoring 25 points.
Maryland 75 Wake Forest 64
This one was no surprise of course. If you’ve watched any ACC basketball this season you know Wake Forest can’t win when they’re not at home (five of their six loses have come away from Winston-Salem). I guess you can call it youth, but since I’m predicting that Wake’s big three (Teague, Johnson and Al-Farouq) will be going pro after this season, they better figure it out real soon. Anyhow, the Maryland D held Wake to 29% shooting. Only Johnson managed to do anything, making nine of Wake’s 22 shots. Yep, that means the other nine players that played went a solid 13-55. Maryland just dominated, hitting 21-26 free throws, grabbing nine more boards and dishing out eight more assists. Vasquez of course led the way with nearly another triple-double; 22 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.