Blue Devils Weather a Hurricane


Can I just say it…that easily was the laziest and lamest headline I’ve ever written. I won’t let it happen again. I just returned from vacation in Miami (sadly, I was not able to attend the game. I actually flew back to NYC in the morning for work). Damn you, job. I was really hoping to see the Canes’ digs. The last time I saw them play was in the Heat’s arena.

While it’s probably not worth bragging about, beating Miami in Miami is nothing to sneeze at. This is the same team that had won 12 of 13 at home and beat both Wake Forest and Georgia Tech in South Beach. Yet, I have to say, I was never really worried. Even when Duke fell down by 12 at halftime, I never thought they’d lose.

In fact, during halftime, I leaned over to a friend of mine (he’s a Maryland fan, Miami graduate) that Duke would rally in the first five minutes of the second half. Man it feels good to be right sometimes.

How right was I? With 4:46 gone in the second half, Duke led 42-41. Damn it feels good to be right.


Duke takes a half to warm up. At this point, are we ever shocked to see Duke shooting in the low 30’s? It’s happened enough times this season, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The Big 3 (still no good nickname for them yet) were truly awful in the first half.

Jon Scheyer (who we learned has a sore back) missed his first nine shots, while Nolan (who’s back we assume is fine) missed his first six. Singler (also, no knowledge on his back) wasn’t too bad, he was 2-5 at halftime, although he was shooting just jumpers (more on that later). Still the trio only scored nine points in the first half.

In the second though, the threesome scored 49 of Duke’s 56 points. That’s a pretty stunning number. It’s like Miami knew was going to happen and still couldn’t stop it.

Luckily there was Brian Zoubek. Seriously, did you ever think you’d see that sentence before? After having a career game against Maryland over the weekend, Zoubek put together another solid outing, although the numbers won’t jump out at you. He scored 10, grabbing five boards.

Yet, you could argue he was the most important player on the floor AGAIN for the Blue Devils. In the first half, the Big three were shut out for a long, important stretch, failing to score a point during a 10-minute span starting with about 11 minutes left. Duke was already trailing at that point by six (18-12). It should have gotten ugly, but Brian Zoubek scored three straight baskets, sandwiched in between two Mason Plumlee scores. While Duke still feel further behind, Zoubek’s (and Mason’s) points keep the deficit reasonable.

Think I’m done talking about Zoubek…I’m just getting warmed up. Did you know he had five steals for the game? The guy is slower than a dead moose, but still picked off five passes. In fact, in the second half while Duke was trying to storm back, he had three of those steals in the first three minutes, helping Duke go on a quick 9-2 run.

While we’re always guarded when praising Zoubek, it is nice to see him playing well. He seems to be in command down low. He’s finding the right spots for rebounds (four offensive boards against Miami), he’s getting involved in the offense (two assists), something Coach K has preached the past few weeks and he’s simple producing (he hit four of five shots Wednesday night). In fact, after scoring zero points in three of his last six games, Brian has hit 11-16 this past week.

It appears that Coach K has decided that he wants his seniors on the floor, along with the big three. In two games, the decision has paid off.

Of course this doesn’t mean the reserves don’t have a role. The two Plumlee’s and Dawkins all got about 10 minutes tonight. I suspect this will be the norm, although Mason will probably still get 15-20 minutes in some games. The simple fact is, neither Zoubek or Thomas have shown they can stop fouling so much.

It was great to see Dawkins hit a three (just keep shooting them, kid). He’s played 10 minutes in each of the last three games, but this was his first made basket.

Mason also seems to be getting more comfortable with his role and his understanding of the offense (and like we said, his two baskets in the first half kept Duke in this thing). The great irony is, whenever he’s on the floor, he’s clearly the best athlete on the court for either team. I can’t wait until this kid develops…he’s going to be a star.

Overall, the only disappointment I have about this game was the fact that Duke turned them self into a jump shooting team. Granted, the three’s are what got Duke back in this thing, but where were the drive and dishes? Where were the mid-range shots? The Devils took 29 three-point shots (that’s nearly half of their freaking shots). Yet Miami was dominating Duke at the free throw line (and don’t be fooled by the game total of 22 free throw attempts, that had more to do with Duke leading late and Miami fouling on purpose).

Thirty minutes into the game, Duke had taken three free throws to Miami’s 19. The big three (Scheyer, Singler and Smith) took none. The three free throws were taken by Thomas and Zoubek. That tells you the trio was living deep. Ironically though, Duke was 13-29 from three and 12-31 from two.

I’m loving the black eye on Singler. Apparently he got the shiner during practice on Monday and let’s be honest…he looks cooler with it. Is there any way he can keep it for the remainder of the season?

I’m sticking with my prediction…the Devils have five games left and they’ll only lose one more. No one is beating them in Cameron and Virginia is falling, so that should be a road win. Yet, I just can’t see them beating Maryland at College Park on senior night.

Random stat that interests only me. Did you know that Olek Czyz scored a total of 23 points in his Duke career? I wonder who has the record for least amount of points scored by a scholarship player.