No February Collapse This Season


The wins keep getting uglier, but no matter ugly they may get, it’s a win.

In a game that often resembled a street brawl, the Blue Devils refused to be suckered punch (I’m looking at you Dorenzo Hudson) by the Hokies and rolled to their six-straight win. All thanks to 14-4 run to end the game.

If you’ve been paying attention, you knew this was going to be tough. Both teams love to play defense, both teams can turn cold at times, but both teams live at the free throw line. The two teams combined to shoot 31% from the floor, but combined to hit 36 of 42 for the night. The difference…three-point shooting.

Tech came into the game last in the ACC in three-point attempts, so it was no surprise they weren’t lighting it up, but Duke hit 10-30 to Tech’s 2-15. That, my son…was the difference.


Is Brian Zoubek the best center in the ACC? No, but he sure has looked like one in the past three games. He may not be the best player for Duke down the stretch, but he’s certainly becoming the most valuable. It just makes you ask, where has this been?

Tonight, Zoubek was the difference. I’ve written that sentence so much the past 10 days I should just start cutting and pasting it in. He owned the boards. Seriously, it looked like he was taking on a high school JV team. He finished with 16 boards, eight on the offensive end.

Because of foot problems in his career, he’s struggled keeping up with the more agile big men in this conference. This season though, he’s healthy and is having no problem going up top to defend or help with a screen and getting back under the boards for a rebound.

Of course for him, the big difference has been, he’s simply not fouling as much. That’s always been his problem. He’s played back-to-back 29 minute games.

Let’s get this straight, Duke will not advance too many games in the NCAA Tournament shooting under 30% from the floor. Over Duke’s last four games (two of which were in Cameron), they have hit only 34% from two-point range (67-195). In their last two, they’ve hit more three’s (23) than two’s (20).

This will become a problem. It’s one thing to miss eight-straight three-point shots to open the second half of the ball game in your home gym. You’re not going to pull out wins like this in the tournament. It just won’t happen. Duke needs to find a way to hit an inside shot, particularly by their big men.

Tonight, Coach Greenberg’s strategy was simple. When Duke screened with a big guy up top, both defenders would follow the ball handler. Think back…how many times did you see Thomas and Zoubek completely open under the basket?

Coach Greenberg knew what we all knew. The guards won’t pass it inside, especially when the big men are moving. Unless Duke suddenly learns how to play a two-man game, this will remain a problem.

The three’s weren’t falling and there was no one in the middle who can do much offensively. That’s where Nolan does the one thing no other Duke player can do, take on his defender one-on-one and drive it to the hole.

With Duke’s lead gone, Nolan simply took it to the basket and the results were a two-pointer (and a foul), followed by two free throw attempts on the next possession. Nolan drove a third time, missed, but Zoubek got the board and the put back (and a foul). Two possessions later he did it again. That’s the power of the dribble-drive. When you’re ice cold, take it to the rim. Good things start to happen.

I talked about this so much, I’m getting bored by it, but how many times has Duke been in a tight game with 32 minutes played, then taken over in the final eight minutes?

– Against North Carolina, Duke was tied, 45-45 with eight minutes left. They won the final eight minutes, 19-9.
– Against Florida State two weeks earlier, Duke was up six with 32 minutes played. They wrapped up the final eight going on a 19-6 run.

Those are just a couple of games I remember off the top of my head. Tonight, at 8:19, Duke and Virginia Tech were tied, 47-47. Then Nolan took over and Duke took over. Duke won the final eight minutes 20-8.

You can chalk it up to experience. This is what you get when you start and can finish with three seniors and two juniors on the floor.

Fouls get called. That’s the game of basketball. How you choose to react to it is how basketball games are decided. Was it my imagination or did it seem like every time a foul was called on Tech, they had something to say or gave a look to the ref? Seriously guys, get a grip.

Fouls are called, some are good, some are bad. It hurts both teams and yes, it hurts the road team more often than not. Yet, you can’t go jawing at the ref every time you don’t like a call. If they want to move up to the elite status of the ACC, the Hokies will need to learn this.

I can not believe that Dorenzo Huson was not thrown out of the game. Hell, I don’t think a foul was given to him? What the hell were the refs looking at? Not only that, what were the announcers looking at? They kept saying it wasn’t a big deal.

If you need a reminder, late in the game, Nolan Smith and Hudson got into a little jawing match. Hudson approached Smith during a dead-ball situation, got right into his face and then shoved Nolan’s face away.

No, shoving a player in the face is technically not a “punch.” The last time I checked though, shoving someone in the face was against the rules. Think about it, you’re standing on the sidewalk and someone shoves you in the face…what’s your reaction?

Hudson should have been thrown out of the game (thus suspended for his next game).

What infuriates me about this is, if this was reversed and Nolan Smith had shoved Hudson in the face, that video would be all over You Tube and every sports blog would be ripping him, screaming that “Duke gets all the calls!” and “Duke players get away with everything!”

Again, if that doesn’t get you thrown out of the game, then please tell me what does?

Obviously this was a crucial game. If Duke lost, they would have been tied with Maryland and Virginia Tech for first in the conference. So it was no surprise to see the young bench players spend most of the night sitting on the bench.

Let’s be honest, the team doesn’t look as good when they’re in there (compared to the upperclassmen). Mason is the only one I see getting any real minutes, but he picked up three quick fouls and was back on the bench in the first half.

If you haven’t noticed, Scheyer has found himself in the middle of a mini-slump. He’s hit only 30% of his shots in Duke’s last four games (20-67). In fact, if you want to look at Duke’s struggles scoring inside, look right at Jon. Over his last four, he is 14-34 from three (42%). That’s not too tragic. However, from inside he’s 6-23 (26%).  That’s awful.

If I could pinpoint one problem, it’s the fact he’s not taking the mid-range jumper from around the free throw line. He’s taking it deep, often looking for fouls, but instead settling for some off-the-wall shots. The advantage he is suppose to have over other point guards is his height advantage. If he drives into the paint, the mid-range should be there.

Hopefully, he can find his groove because if he doesn’t, then all the “tired legs” talk is going to start to come back.