No inside game. It’s been a problem ever since Sheldon Williams shipped off the the NBA. Sure Duke had great guards and wing players who could beat you with threes, but the question always came up…what happens on a cold night? What happens when the threes aren’t landing? Over the past couple of years, the answer was simple. We lose.
Tonight though, just maybe…that question goes away. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to turn one great game by the Plumlee’s in a “Duke’s going to win the championship” speech, but it appears they finally have the inside presence they so desperately needed. So let’s not waste anymore of your valuable time and get right into it.
What did I see?
I saw the Plumlee brothers grow up tonight. In reality, they’ve been getting better and better all season long. Tonight though, it was all about them because the simple fact is, without them, Duke doesn’t win tonight.
As the Law Firm of Singler, Scheyer and Smith were struggling from the floor early on, it was the Plumlee’s that Wake couldn’t stop, especially on the boards. In the first half alone, the brothers scored 23 points, grabbing 17 rebounds. For the game, they scored 30, grabbing 21 boards and that’s with Mason missing the final 11 minutes after a hard foul sent him down to the bench.
While the two will probably always be linked, in reality they are two completely different players. Miles is becoming a force below, getting himself into perfect position and grabbing the missed shots with two strong hands.
Mason really is the best athlete on the team though. The past two weeks we’ve been talking about finishing. Tonight, Mason was a finisher. He took the ball to the basket and produced. Yet, his two best plays were not shots, although you could argue that his reverse slam was the “highlight” of the night.
First, at the 5:36 mark, Wake’s Al-Farouq Aminu grabbed a long rebound and raced down the floor. Mason was the only person back. He could have made a lame effort to defend (picking up a foul in the process), but instead, simply let Aminu score. Why was this smart? Because the refs were calling a tight game. He already had two fouls and too many Blue Devils were struggling with foul trouble. His being able to stay on the floor was more important than the two points Aminu scored. It’s called smart play and that’s called maturing. In fact…
On Duke’s next possession, Mason (despite standing 6’10) dribble-drove it to the basket, found himself doubled team and dished it out to an open Singler, who nailed Duke’s first three of the game.
Again, this was one game, but if this is what we can start to expect from Miles and Mason, the future looks bright.
I saw the Big Three step up when they had to. The shooting stats won’t impress your girlfriend (as Singler, Scheyer and Smith shot 16-47 from the floor), yet most of their big shots came in the second half, after the Plumlee’s controlled the game for the first 25 minutes.
Remember, after Wake came back to take a one-point lead (56-55) at the 14-minute mark, it was Singler’s big three that put Duke back up, followed by a beautiful old fashion three-point play by Scheyer in the next play. Of course we won’t forget about Nolan, who controlled the game at the end, driving and hitting shots as Duke tried to run the clock out.
Kyle Singler in particular had a strange game. His overall stat line was impressive. He scored 21, grabbing 15 boards (including six offensive). It was his first career 20/15 game. Of course he struggled early (again), hitting just one of his first eight shots, yet he hit six of his last 11 to finish strong.
I saw a lot of fouls. In fact, if you were watching, you saw a stunning 47 fouls called on both teams. Hell, Wake was in the bonus in the first half, with only nine minutes played. Overall, the teams took a combined 57 free throws. Duke did manage to take seven more, but they made 11 more, which goes a long way in determining the outcome of the game.
One controversial call was the intentional foul call on Ishmael Smith against Mason Plumlee, midway through the second half. Based on my understanding of the rule, the foul may have been hard, bit since Smith was going for the ball, it should not have been intentional.
Having said that, the announcers treated it like it was the defining moment of the game and in fact, said, “mark this time down.” Yet, to do that, you have to forget Duke was already on a 6-0 run. Granted, it always sounds worse when you call it a four-point play (which it turned out to be), but let’s not forget, if the ref didn’t call it intentional, it still would have been called a foul and Duke still would have shot two free throws (and make them both). The bad call resulted in two extra points with Duke getting the possession. Take that away and Duke still went on a 11-0 run.
Speaking of fouls, I saw Duke’s Big Boys nearly all foul out of the game. Tonight, the Plumlee’s and Thomas all had four fouls, while Zoubek fouled out. This means every one minute and 11 seconds, this foursome committed a foul…and please keep in mind, this is at home, when the refs are suppose to be giving favorable calls.
I’ve been hitting on this subject for a few weeks now and it will remain a concern throughout the ACC. Duke’s front court is committing too many fouls. Luckily for us, this season we have the bodies. Tonight, even Ryan Kelly stepped in to fill in a void late in the first half.
I saw Andre Dawkins for a cool 12 minutes. I’m going to keep preaching it, the kid needs to be on the floor. I could care less if he scores a single basket or knocks down a single three. His stroke will come back. Tonight, thanks to Duke’s foul issues, he played 12 minutes and hit one basket. Keeping shooting, kid. Keep shooting.
I saw a tired Wake Forest squad. Wake had entered the game winning three of their last four, but they needed four overtimes to earn those three W’s. Tonight, they looked like they ran out of steam. It probably didn’t help that the game was so physical.
I saw that Ismael Smith is not Jeff Teague. Recently, I got into a friendly conversation with a Wake Forest fan. I had pointed out on this blog that unlike Teague, Smith could not be relied upon down the stretch and/or in a big game. The Wake fan kindly disagreed.
Tonight, Smith showed that he’s as quick as any guard in the ACC, but because he has ZERO outside shot, he can be stopped. Tonight, the Devils let Smith roll into double teams and he was able to hit only 3-12 shots. He took no three-point shots attempts. Of course if I was shooting only 21% from deep, I’d probably not take a three either.
Stat Line That I Only Care About – Nolan Smith is becoming a scoring machine. He’s scored 19+ in seven of his last eight. What’s most impressive is the fact that he’s done it without the three. In his last four games, he’s taken 51 shots, but only nine have been three pointers.
Speaking of three’s, where has it gone? Duke actually shot 4-13 from deep tonight, but sadly, that’s a step up from what they’ve done in recent games. The Devils have hit only 11 of their last 43 three-point shots.
FINAL WORD: So the Blue Devils improved to 15-2 on the season, but let’s be honest, despite some big wins this season, we still have a lot to learn about this team. Particularly, how will Duke handle the road? The Blue Devils are officially 0-2 on the road this season (sorry the wins at MSG and in the United Center were neutral site victories).
Duke’s has two road tests (against Wisconsin and Georgia Tech) and they failed both times. Is it me or is it hard to believe Duke has only visited an opponent’s home court twice all season long?
This of course has been an issue for Duke over the years. It’s a simple fact that the Devils have not played a lot of non-conference ‘true’ road games over the years (especially against quality competition).
We will learn something soon enough though. Five of Duke’s next seven games will be on to road. Three of those road games will be against ranked teams: Clemson, Georgetown and our personal favorite, North Carolina (not to mention a home game against Georgia Tech).
By February 10th, we’ll know a lot about this team.