Solid win for Duke, no doubt about it and for the first time I’m really starting to believe. All season long I’ve avoided putting them in the same sentence as a Memphis, Kansas and even North Carolina, but not anymore. They’ve proven tonight that they are a contender.
First and foremost, you could tell that Carolina missed Ty Lawson. He’s an all-American type point guard and they’re going to struggle to beat a team like Duke without him. Quentin Thomas had a decent game at times; 10 points and seven assists, but he did have seven turnovers as well.
There’s no doubt Hansbrough is a great player, although I felt Singler and Thomas did a decent job on him. His 28/18 game would make Sean May proud. However, the usually solid free throw shooter was only 4-9 for the game, missing a few key ones late in the game.
The downfall of Carolina was the awful shooting nights from Ellington (3-14), Ginyard (3-10) and Green (1-10). The three combined for an awful 7-34 from the floor. Of course you have to assume that missing Lawson had a factor in this, however, it seems that rough shooting nights are becoming a trend for Ellington and Green. Ginyard on the other hand, was at least perfect from the charity strip (8-8).
One last note on Carolina…where’s the beef on the bench? Outside Green’s 1-10 shooting, no other bench player took a shot. Duke’s bench outscored the Heels, 22-3. Ouch.
Anyhow, enough about Carolina. The key for Duke was defensive pressure and 3’s. Duke finished 13-29 (Carolina finished 3-15) from behind the strip. Paulus FINALLY brought his hot hand out onto the road with him. He nailed 6-8 from behind the 3-line.
Singler was a man tonight. Stuck guarding a beast in Hansbrough, he held his own, scoring 14 points and pulling down 10 boards (three or four huge ones late in the game). He may officially be a freshman, but he doesn’t play like one. He wasn’t afraid to take Hansbrough one-on-one and he was able to avoid foul trouble. It’s almost like he’s too stupid to realize he’s suppose to be a least a little intiminated.
So much for being bullied under the rim. Carolina was suppose to out-muscle Duke and early on, it looked like they would. For the game, the Tar Heels out rebounded Duke 44-37, but keep in mind, in the first seven minutes of the game, Carolina had a 15-5 rebounding edge. Now I’m not a smart man, but if my math is correct, the smaller Duke team out rebounded Carolina in the last 33 minutes, 32-29.
Lance Thomas took a huge step forward today. Since ACC play started, all we’ve asked of Thomas is that he score and rebound more than he fouls. First, he didn’t foul out tonight, which makes us very proud. He played a solid 25, scoring ten and rebounding five (two offensive). He had a huge second half block against Hansbrough and for most of the game, he actually resembled a post-player, scoring with his back to the basket. Let’s hope that he is starting to figure it all out.
Paulus, who is quickly joining the ranks of Hurley, Collins, Wojo, Redick…hated white guards, who knows how to win a game, had his best game on the road. What else can you say about the 6-8 from the three spot? When Carolina tried to come out hot in the second half, it was Paulus’ 3’s that killed their momentum.
However, do us all a favor Paulus, cut down on the flopping. You were a quarterback for Christ’s sake.
Coach K needs to bring in a free throw expert. This (more than the size issue) is going to wreck any tournament run. After a shaky 5-11 start, the Devils did manage to hit 11-16 in the last three minutes (finishing 16-27). Where would we be without Scheyer’s free throw ability? Let’s try not to find out, shall we?
It appeared Coach K cut down on the minutes from the bench tonight. Excluding Scheyer’s 33 minutes, the rest of the bench only got 22 minutes on the court.
I’ll have to give props to Coach K this week. He clearly had a game plan on D (don’t foul Hansbrough) and Duke followed through. Also, despite some foul issues with Nelson/Thomas/Paulus (4 fouls) and Henderson/Singler/Scheyer (3 fouls), he was able to keep all of them from fouling out.
It is amazing how well the Devils have adapted to the new Phoenix-style spread offense, especially late in games when they try to slow it down and shorten the game. Over the past few years, nothing has been more frustrating to watch than Duke in the last five minutes of a game. Once they slowed the game down, they would just fall out of rhythm…not anymore. Now when they get a lead, they hold it. The evidence is there; since the Pittsburgh defeat, the closes game was nine-points.
The refs…overall not bad. They had a great first half, the play was clean (no fouls in the first four minutes) and they didn’t force any whistles. There were a couple rough calls, but they were going both ways. In the second, the refs got more involved and were making some strange calls (both ways of course). Both coaches worked the refs, but neither lost it at any point. In total, there were 50 fouls called (24 on Duke). However, despite the fact Duke took 16 free throws in the final three minutes, Carolina still shot three more free throws for the game.
Favorite Carolina sign/prop: I thought the ‘Wanted: (with a photo of Henderson)” signs that were passed out to everyone were kind of lame. That’s the best you can come up with? However, in the upper deck, two Carolina fans were holding up bright yellow, VCU shirts. Brilliant. Next time, get closer to the floor though.
Duke Player of the Game: Kyle Singler (14 boards and 10 rebounds). Paulus should probably get it because his 3’s kept Duke on top, but Singler came up huge under the boards in the second half.
Props Go To: Tyler Hansbrough. What else can you say about him? He’s a stud around the basket. After watching for three years now, I’m going to have to say I agree with the experts. He’ll be a good pro, not great, who will be in the NBA for 10 years. However, if I was a betting man (which we all know I am), I’d put money down that Psycho T will be back for his senior year.