Duke plays 3-on-5, yet wins, this time.


Wednesday night, the Duke Blue Devils looked a lot like last year’s Duke Blue Devils, “deciding” to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils with only three players. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean they actually played with only three players on the court, but sometimes it was hard to tell that there were five players from Duke on the court.


I saw three players, Singler, Scheyer and Smith contribute all of Duke’s scoring against ASU. Singler, Scheyer and Smith took 43 of Duke’s 55 shots, making 17 of the Devil’s 23 shots. Not good. That’s good enough to win a second round game in the NCAA Tournament (where we’d face a team like ASU), but we won’t survive the Sweet 16 with that type of production (against teams like UConn).

I saw the Big’s come up small. Plumlee, Zoubek and Thomas pulled down only 16 boards (they need to average 22-25 per game), scoring only 13 points, while committing 13 fouls. This type of production is unacceptable against a team like ASU, who’s best big man was former Dukie, Eric Boateng.

Now it’s easy to blame the big boys, but the blame also lies in the guards, as well as Singler. Early in the second half, the Devils abandoned going inside, instead whipping the ball around and around the three-point line between Singler, Scheyer, Smith and Dawkins. They would either shoot a three or drive to the middle. I was there, 30-feet away and there were plenty of times when one of our big men got into a good position, but the ball was not delivered.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know our big boys are not going to own the paint and put up 20 points, but basketball is a lot like football. In football, you can’t become one-dimensional and just pass. Even if you’re struggled to run the ball, you still have to pound it inside enough to keep the defense honest.

Duke’s inside game is the running game. Sure it’s not going to win games running the ball, but we have to, I stress have to get that ball inside from time to time, to keep the defense honest.

I saw Singler go cold. Kyle struggled, big time, scoring only one basket in the first 26+ minutes. He did manage to hit four straight midway through the second, but overall, he was 5-16 on the night (1-5 from three). Everyone deserves an off-night, but Singler’s problem was simple, he abandoned the mid-range jumper the second the game started. He shot three’s or drove too deep into the lane, often getting stuck with an ugly shot between the trees.

In reality, Singler stood a good 3-5 inches taller than any defender the Sun Devils threw at him. All he needed to do was get into the lane and pull up. He didn’t figure this out until about the 13 minute mark. He hit his next four shots, three of which were mid-range jumpers (he missed another one, but it was a good shot that rolled out).

I saw Scheyer finally turns it over. He went four games without turning the ball over before finally coughing it up at around the 11-minute mark in the first half. We’ll cut the kid some slack. It was his only turnover, all while dishing out five assists for the game. For the season, he has a 26/1 assist-to-turnover rate. No too shabby.

I saw Coach K tightens up the rotation. We’re five games in and coach is already reverted to a seven-man rotation. Kelly did play, but only for five minutes, all in the first half. He took not shots and pulled down zero rebounds. Singler, Scheyer and Smith all played a full 40 minutes. If this is the norm, this team is going to struggle this year. This wasn’t some important ACC battle with UNC, this was game five against Arizona State.

I got to attend this game (as you can see in the pictures). It was pretty amazing how much of a home-field advantage MSG has become against some foes. However, against the Huskies Friday afternoon, look for the crowd to even out. There are a lot of UConn faithful in and around NYC.

For the record, Coach K’s daughter (right), not sure which one it was, but she herself had two daughters, was a bit of a M.I.L.F., but man can she yell. Sitting four rows behind her father and three ahead of me, she spent the entire game “coaching” from the stands, all while still paying attention to her two young kids. Impressive.

Back to the game, sorry.

Obviously I’m being a little harsh on the Blue Devils. I’ve got very little positive to say, despite the fact they won by 11 Wednesday night. In reality though, it was not a good game and the results had more to do with a lack of weapons by the Sun Devils. ASU slowed the pace of the game down with a solid zone (Duke shot only 4-18 from three), while running a near-perfect Stockton/Malone style pick-n-roll. It wasn’t to about the 13-minute mark, after Coach K called a timeout, did Duke’s guards finally start running through the picks. Prior to that, the big man would roll off with ASU point guard Derek Glasser, who more often than not, proceeded to blow up our trees.

Having said all that, tonight was a win and a win is a win, especially when you look around the ACC and see the loses (Carolina, Clemson, FSU, Georgia Tech have all lost once, Maryland, Virginia and Boston College have all already lost twice). However, play like this again Friday and Connecticut is going to roll over us. While I personally think we can compete with Walker and Dyson (I said compete, not beat), the inside size of the Huskies (Robinson, Oriakhi, Okwandu and Edwards) will dominate our inside guys.

Duke vs. Arizona State Tip Off
Duke vs. Arizona State Tip Off /