Duke is the Steve Buscemi of College Basketball


Whatever Coach K said at halftime, I could use that kind of motivation at lunch at work everyday.

After a brutal first half, clearly the ugliest basketball I’ve seen all season, Duke came out rolling in the second half to put away the Boilermakers and advance to the Elite Eight. It will be Duke’s first trip to the regional finals since Luol Deng was a freshman many moons ago.

For me, my blood pressure went through the roof in that first 19:30 seconds of the game. I had past Duke tournament failures dancing in my head. Jon Scheyer’s shooting slump was bringing back bad memories of J.J. Redick’s epic Sweet 16 flops. I had little faith this was going to turn out good. Thank God what I think doesn’t really matter. Having said that…


That’s right folks…in the only battle of 3 on 3 in the Sweet 16, Duke’s big three (Singler, Scheyer and Smith) beat Purdue tonight, outscoring the Boilermakers, 58-57. And like so many games this season, the big three each had their own moments that were key to victory.

KYLE SINGLER: The man was the only person in a white uniform who could hit a shot in the first half. While the rest of the team was just 3-19, Kyle was able to knock down 4-10, including three 3-pt shots. He personally kept Duke in this game (although Purdue missing a ton of open shots helped as well). While in the second half, he won’t get the headlines, let’s not forget, he continued to roll early in the second period. In fact, he scored 18 of Duke’s first 42 points tonight.

NOLAN SMITH: Halfway through the second half, the Devils were starting to hit some shots, but they were unable to pull away. Then Nolan Smith took over. He scored three straight baskets that included two drives and one three-point shot. It gave Duke a nine-point cushion, its largest of the game. This was the first time the Duke faithful realized they were going to take this one. Actually, I shouldn’t speak for everyone. It was the first time I realized Duke could/would win this one.

JON SCHEYER: The man was cold. I mean, ice-cold. After a 1-11 performance against California, he started off tonight’s game 0-7. The last time he hit a shot, President Obama was still a state senator. Yet, the shooter kept shooting and one went in at the 18:17 mark. But that was nothing. With Duke up 11 with five to play, Scheyer took back-to-back possessions to the rim, rolling in crazy “Scheyer” shots to seal the deal.

When it was all said and done, after a 1-18 slump, Jon finished this game hitting 4-8 from the floor. I’m not willing to declare the slump officially over, but at least he can head into the Sunday game with some confidence.

With around 50 seconds left in the first half, Duke was in trouble. They were down only 23-19, but the Devils hadn’t hit a shot in nearly 10 minutes (yes, you read that right). Then Singler nailed an open three to get Duke back within one. Moments later he stole the ball from Kelsey Barlow and although he got his dunk blocked, Duke maintained possession. With seconds left, Nolan Smith rebounded a Scheyer miss and put the ball into the basket. Just like that, Duke turned a four point deficit into a one-point lead, scoring on back-to-back possessions for the first time all game.

Do not underestimate these five points. Don’t underestimate a bit of momentum for a team heading into the halftime. There is no telling what would have happened if Duke had trailed by 4-6 points after 20 minutes.

You never know how a game is going to play out if a certain player was playing in it or not, but you have to feel like Purdue would have had a better shot if Robbie Hummel was playing. The Boilermakers were pretty much reduced to a two-man team of Johnson and Moore. The two combined to shoot a decent 17-35 on the night. The rest of the team combined for 3-19. Johnson and Moore in fact produced all of Purdue’s baskets in the first half.

You know what, “owned” may not be a strong enough of a word to describe what Duke did on the boards tonight. Duke out-rebounded Purude, 45-22. They had 15 offensive rebounds to Purdue’s four. In the tournament so far, Duke is +43 in rebounding. Wow. I’ve never been +43 in anything in my life.

ESPN’S game recap is up and the title says, “Singler, Scheyer shoot Blue Devils past pesky Purdue.” Um, are we forgetting someone? It was Nolan Smith’s shooting that put Duke over the top in the second half. Our man Nolan, gets no love from the press. Without him, this team’s season is over. Speaking of Nolan…

While Duke was pulling away thanks to Nolan taking over, did anyone else notice he was grabbing his hamstring? I’m not prepared to guess that he might have injured his hamstring, simply because a little later, he was doing it again, but he was grabbing his right leg. The first time, he was reaching behind his left leg. Maybe it was cramps? It’s a little high for cramps, but that Texas heat can play some tricks on your body, even if you’re in a dome.


While he couldn’t score like JaJuan johnson, Zoubek certainly held his own all night. The game plan was simple for Purdue. Draw Big Brian away from the paint with Johnson and his outside shot. In fact, Johnson drained his first two shots from above the free throw line. Yet in the end, Zoubek did his job. He was able to get back and get under the boards. He finished with four points and 14 boards before fouling out.

The beauty of Lance Thomas’ game is the fact that if he’s doing his job well,  then you’ll almost never hear his name called. He’s almost like a shutdown corner in football. Tonight, what he did so great was rotating over. When Zoubek and/or the Plumlees would get stuck outside or got caught on a different player, Thomas did a fantastic job of switching to the open big man inside. He also took two huge charges, both during crucial times in the game.

Prior to the tournament, I talked about the need of one of the bench players to step it up and play like a starter when he’s on the floor. So far, Miles Plumlee has done that. He’s played like an upperclassman. He’s been able to create his own shot, hit jumpers, grab boards and most importantly, he’s no longer a defensive liability. Tonight, he scored four points (2-3 shooting) and grabbed seven boards.

I think a lot of people on both sides had to be a bit unhappy with the refs tonight. It just seemed like they couldn’t make up their minds on what kind of game they were going to call. At times, they let the roughest stuff go, but then there would be a stretch where they’d call tic-tac fouls…again, on both teams.

The worse for Duke was the fact that they were letting Purdue’s guards run over/through Duke’s screens. For most of the night, Duke’s struggles were due to the fact that the Boilermakers were meeting Duke’s players when they received the ball. This kills the motion offense. How was this happening? The refs were letting Purdue bully through our big guy’s screens.

CLASSLESS ACT OF THE NIGHT: According to someone on twitter, the family of Purdue’s Chris Kramer can be d-bags. According to this source, they “clamor for a foul EVERY SINGLE PLAY & younger (brother) screams gay chants at officials.” Stay classy, Kramer family.

Despite all the talk of an ugly game, Duke did manage to score 40 in the second half against a solid Purdue defense. Now if only we could carry it over to Sunday afternoon.

Of course, after the game, all the talk was about whether Duke was going to be able to handle Baylor after such a physical game? I’ll be honest, I’m not really worried about it. The Blue Devils have been playing games like this all season long. A two-day turnaround isn’t what I want, but I’m quite sure they can handle it.

The question I have is, how will Baylor react when they’ll be forced to play an ugly game against Duke? It’s not like the Devils are going to start to run-n-gun just because Baylor is on the court.

The fact remains, if Duke is going to win Sunday, they are going to have to hit threes against Baylor’s zone. That’s it. Hit threes and Duke is in the Final Four. Miss ’em, start looking forward to Kyrie Irving.

Lastly, I also saw a lot of chatter on Twitter about “Duke getting over the hump” or “Duke getting the Sweet 16 monkey of their back.” I’m sorry, but I’m not celebrating anything. Let other schools celebrate the Elite Eight. I want back into that Final Four. I want Kentucky or West Virginia and I want a championship.