WHAT JUST HAPPENED:
The Duke Blue Devils sure picked a great time to play their best basketball. The Blue Devils dismantled the No. 4 ranked Kansas State Wildcats with a balance offense and a stiffing defense. With Kyrie Irving will make most of the highlight reels, the fact is, five players scored double digits, everyone crashed the glass, and everyone locked it down on D.
THE GAME WAS WON WHEN…
…I sent out a tweet at the 14:18 mark in the second half that said, “Come on. Up 9 with the ball. Let’s blow this open.”
Up to that point, Duke seemed to be dominating, but were just up seven until Mason Plumlee scored. On Kansas State’s return trip down, Jaocb Pullen turned the ball over. Maybe it was the alcohol in my system. Maybe it was the fact I wasn’t wearing any pants, but something just felt right.
The tweet was good lucky timing. Mason’s basket just before was the beginning of 10-0 run. Just like that, a manageable deficit for the Wildcats suddenly became my hair, i.e. unmanageable.
Duke would actually go on a 12-2 run before State hit a couple baskets. I only bring this up because six different Duke players scored in that 12-point run. Balance.
WHO DESERVES MAD PROPS:
Kyrie Irving > Harrison Barnes. Sorry, Carolina fans, but Irving looked like the guy who should have been considered for first-team All-American. Against one of the best guards in the nation, Jacob Pullen, Irving simply owned him…and I mean owned him.
Irving finished with 17 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. He turned it over three times, but all three times were due to a bad pass, a bad catch, or a bad decision.
From the very start, Irving simply took it to the hoop…again and again and again. Now last night, I talked about Irving’s drives. I felt like he needed to avoid always going all the way to the basket (try a mid-range or two) and he needed to go left.
While he did take one mid-range shot, he still continued his drives all the way to the basket. However, Irving looked left-handed tonight. That’s how easy it was for him. He drove right. He drove left. After missing his first two circus shots, he soon hit everything.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT…
…Nolan Smith. The fact is, Irving and Smith finished with identical numbers. They both scord 17, they both grabbed five boards and dished out five assists. Now Smith didn’t have any steals, but he turned it over two less times.
I don’t know if Nolan has a nickname, but I want to call him the “Silent Assassin.” The fact is, all game long everyone’s talking/tweeting about how sick Irving is, how tough Singler is, how lethal Dawkins is and how talented Mason is, yet when the game is done, you look at the stat sheet and Smith is producing stud-like numbers.
On the season, Smith is first in points, second in assists (and steals) and third in rebounds. His .574 shooting percentage is second only to Mason Plumlee.
LOSERS NEED LOVE TO:
Curtis Kelly came off the bench and for a while was the only Wildcat who could do much of anything. He scored Kansas State’s first three baskets and finished with a solid 8-11 from the floor. He finished with 19, grabbing six boards in the process. He did turn it over seven times, so that’s not so good.
GOD I LOVE STATS: We all know Kansas State plays a ton of players, but tonight their benched outscored their starters, 45-23.
THREE FROM THE TOP OF THE KEY:
THE “D” IS FOR DEFENSE
The Duke Blue Devils played a near flawless defensive game tonight. Against Marquette, this blog talked about two key concerns, Duke’s lack of steals and the interior back-to-the-basket defense. Tonight, both issues were non-existent for the most part.
First, the Blue Devils stole the ball away 13 times. They forced KSU into 21 turnovers. The simple fact is, Irving, Smith, Curry and Dawkins harassed the Wildcats’ back court all night long. Jacob Pullen, a pre-season All-American, made his best ‘Harrison Barnes against Minnesota’ impression tonight.
He was just 1-12 from the floor and he made zero penetration into the paint. Do not underestimate this. Pullen is a senior and he’s one of the best guards in the nation, yet he was abused by a freshman. At one point in the second half, after committing a foul on another Irving drive to the basket, the TV cameras cut to Pullen and the man looked baffled.
As for the interior, Duke did a much better job of keeping State’s big men off the blocks, while the team as a whole did a good job denying the ball down low. Outside of Curtis Kelly, no KSU big man looked comfortable inside the paint. Twice they were called for 30-second violations.
If you want to complain about anything, it has to be the defensive rebounding. The Devils were out-rebounded 34-26 tonight. I counted at least four times when Duke tipped the ball out of balance. Rebounds need to be grabbed, not tipped.
THE SWAT TEAM
Midway through the first half, after Dawkins and Curry put in back-to-back three-point shots, I asked on twitter if anyone had come up with a nickname for Duke’s two key reserves. Mr. James Yates came up with one and nailed it:
@jumpmanjr012 call In the Swat team and Dawkins delivers.
BALANCE IS THE KEY
I mentioned it up top, but I feel like it needs to be talked about again. A year after Duke relied so heavily on three players to do so much, Duke has eight players who can all produce on any given night (although Miles still has some work to do).
The fact is, Kyle Singler, Duke’s pre-season All-American only took nine shots tonight and the most important part is, there wasn’t a single time I thought Singler should be taking more shots.
When this season is all said and done, the reality is, Kyle could end up being just the fourth best player on this team. Now that’s not a knock on Singler, it’s just goes to show how special Irving is, how good Smith is and how talented Mason is.
BONUS THOUGHT – TALENT OVER DEPTH
Leading up to this game and throughout the contest, everyone was talking about Kansas State’s depth and how Coach Martin could potentially play 13 players. So what? It’s not like Duke was going to be taking on 13 players to their eight. The last time I checked, you still only have five on the floor and no matter what rotation the Wildcats went with, Duke always had the better five on the floor. Depth is nice, but talent still wins basketball.
FINAL DEEP THOUGHTS:
No offence to Pittsburgh, but there shouldn’t be any more doubts about who is number one in the nation right now. This team dismantled a good Kansas State team. Five weeks into the season and Duke is impressing me…and I’m not easy to impress.
As a team this year, Duke is hitting 50% of their shots. Yes, most of that is against inferior competition, but those numbers didn’t dip against Marquette and they certainly didn’t dip against Kansas State.