Duke Dominates Another Spartan


The Duke Blue Devils improved to 12-0 on the season with an easy win over the UNC Greensboro Spartans, 108-62. By the way, can I get some serious props for my predictions? I missed the final score by one freaking point (I said Duke, 107-62). I need to start gambling.

…at the tip. I hate to say it, but the fact is fact. The Spartans were never going to win this game. They weren’t even going to keep it close. When Duke opened up the game on an 8-0 run, it was already over.

I will say this about UNC Greensboro, they did play even basketball for a large chunk of time between the first and second half. At the 5:48 mark in the first half, Duke had a 24-point lead (43-19). Fast-forward to the 15:23 mark in the second half and Duke’s lead was only 25 points 65-40…that means for about 15 minutes last night, the Spartans were even with the Blue Devils, 41-40. That’s the section of the game their coach will ride on.

With Kyrie Irving’s toe still keeping a brother down, the seniors continue to step up. Of course there is nothing surprising about this. Against the Spartans, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler could do no wrong. The pair combined for 53 points, hitting a remarkable 18-25 shots.

Miles Plumlee. The elder Plumlee started the game and really asserted himself around the rim in the second half. He had three monster dunks that really got the crowd going. Of course at 6’10, he should be dunking, but this has been a problem in the past. Miles has a tendency to be weak with the ball under the rim, settling for non-head fake lay up that typically fails to deliver or gets blocked.

He especially worked well with Nolan with the pick and roll from inside the paint (something you don’t see every day in the college game). Over the last four games, where Miles has seen 20+ minutes in each, he has averaged 10 points and 6.5 boards.

How about the effort by Korey Van Dussen? The kid looked like the only player on the Spartans who didn’t look intimidated by the Blue Devils. He had some nifty drives in the first half and was aggressive on the glass. He finished with 13 (5-7 from the floor), grabbing four rebounds.

GOD I LOVE STATS: After shooting 60-percent from the floor, turning it over only seven times, Duke now is number one in the nation in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. On the season, they’re shooting an incredible 51-percent from the floor, including 44-percent from three.

BONUS STAT: Oh yeah, Coach K got win #880. I believe that’s a lot.


Yeah, I know….Singler and Smith scored 53 points, but that was less than half of the team’s total. Overall, six different players scored in double figures, including a solid 15 from Curry. Slowly, Curry is starting to get comfortable in the offense. After failing to break double digits over a six-game period, he’s scored 10+ in his last three.

He’s actually started the last two games. Obviously the coaching staff wants to see what he can do, especially running some point. For the season, he’s produced a better-than-expected assists-to-turnover radio. Curry has dished out 27 assists to only 11 turnovers.

I still think Coach K will roll with Dawkins as the full-time starter over Curry once ACC play kicks in (this Sunday). While Curry is a natural point and will hand out more assists than Dawkins, athletically he doesn’t bring anything to the table that trumps Dawkins. Andre is bigger and at least in my eyes he’s quicker with the ball. Most importantly, Dawkins is the better shooter, although Curry is finding his stroke.

In the end, it probably doesn’t matter. Both players will be on the court a lot. In fact, in a tight game at the end, Duke should lean on their three-guard rotation.

After a slow start to the game, Duke did a much better job of working the ball down low and getting some shots for the big men. I already talked about Miles’ monstrous dunks, but Duke fans had to be happy with Ryan Kelly’s aggressiveness too. Mason’ minutes have been cut lately, but he did have a beautiful back-to-the-basket move (something rarely seen on Duke lately).

However, ignoring the big dunks and final results over a cupcake, I just don’t think our big men are passing the “eye test.” Granted, when they’ve needed to step up against bigger, stronger front lines, they’ve held their own, but they still don’t seem capable of being a great front line.

I think Jay Williams said it best last night. He said that Duke can sometimes fall in love with the outside shot, but come tournament time, if that shot isn’t falling, that’s when you need to be able to turn to the big guys shooting up close. He should know this better than anyone. As great as he was in college, Jay Williams could hit some major dry spells. Yet, Duke kept on winning because they could drop the ball inside to Carlos Boozer and life was still good.

I think the biggest glaring issue last night was rebounding. The Blue Devils should have crushed the Spartans on the boards, yet they didn’t. The smaller, less athletic Spartans actually out-rebounded Duke (31-27), including 12 offensive rebounds. Prior to this game, UNC Greensboro was one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation.

There were too many times Duke players were not in position for a rebound and when they were, they weren’t set right and it allowed smaller players to maneuver underneath for a rebound.

How will this front line handle a Jordan Williams of Maryland? If Duke struggles to own the paint against smaller forwards, how will they do against a bigger, stronger, just as fast big man? How will they do against two big men? North Carolina’s has two future NBA players in Ty Zeller and Jon Henson? Can the Plumlees and Kelly (and Hairston) match up to them? I’m not saying Duke will lose to Carolina, our guards and Kyle Singler are much better than what the Tar Heels can deliver, but I’ve seen rebounding be a great equalizer many times in the past.

It has been four games now and Nolan Smith is starting to look good running the point. After producing back-to-back four turnover games, he didn’t turn the ball over once against the Spartans. He finished with nine assists. Since Irving went down, Nolan Smith has 28 assists to only 10 turnovers.

On the shooting end, after going 0-8 against Bradley in his first game at point, he’s been the best shooting player in the nation since. He’s 25-36 from the floor and 6-7 from three over his last three. Sure the opponents haven’t been great, but those numbers rock.

The reality is, Nolan looks completely comfortable with the ball in Duke’s half-court set. When he decided to penetrate, he can. Because of his outside shooting, teams simply can’t force him to do one thing. On top of all that, Smith had his best game as an interior passer. In the end, the ability to drive and dish is the most lethal weapon a point guard can have.

If there is one aspect he still needs to improve on, it is the ability to push a miss. He’s no Kyrie Irving, who could get up and down the court in five seconds flat, but Smith is quick enough to make teams regret not getting back on D fast enough. He needs to look for more outlet passes and run baby run.

No matter how many games Duke wins, no matter how much they win these games by, the only thing Duke fans will really be thinking about is Kyrie’s toe. Luckily our long nightmare of not knowing may be ending soon. Word is he’ll be re-evaluated next week. At that time they’ll decide if surgery is needed. As everyone should know by now, no surgery means he’ll probably play again at some point this season. Surgery though will mean he’s done for the year.

Next up will be an improved Miami Hurricanes squad. They Canes are 10-3 and are looking like a top-five team in the ACC. They have a pair of great guards in Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott, but most importantly, they have Reggie Johnson. The Canes center is a monster in the paint and will be a nice test for Duke’s big men.