But enough of that. Today's attendees at the Georgia Dome saw two extremely hard fought games. Toney Douglas was again exceptional for the Noles, leading the way with 27 points and a 132 offensive rating while using 30.5% of FSU's possessions. In case you're counting at home, that's 17 straight games of greater than 23% usage and an offensive rating of 108 or higher. In short, he's really, really good. Chris Singleton struggled with fouls and turnovers, but hit a couple of huge jumpers (the almost 3 to put them up 66-62, and then the actual three shortly thereafter), and Solomon Alabi showed how much he's developed since the start of the year. He's averaged 11, 6, and 2.5 blocks over the last 6, and consistently gives them positive minutes.
For Carolina, one set of numbers told me how much they missed Lawson - pace. In ACC play, UNC averaged 74.7 possessions per game. In two games in Atlanta, they let Virginia Tech and FSU hold them to 65 and 64 possessions, respectively. Carolina's offense was still strong - 149 points in 129 possessions. But they never showed the kind of speed they have when Lawson is in the game, and it cost them the easier transition opportunities they feast on when he's running the show. Tyler Hansbrough did pretty much everything he could (it's to his great credit that I was shocked when he failed to convert after given the ball with the Heels down 1 in the last minute - those are plays he always seems to make), but it proved to be not quite enough without UNC's motor in the game. Also, Danny Green never wants to see Atlanta again - 3 of 25 from the field, for his two worst offensive games of the entire season.
Here's the +/- from the early game. Drew's numbers surprised me, but Davis's didn't. He played much better than Deon Thompson. He's going to be a serious defensive force next season (if still a little raw offensively).
In the evening game, Maryland fought the good fight, but they just didn't quite have enough firepower to beat the Devils. They deserve a lot of credit for relentlessly attacking the boards in Atlanta - after putting up one of the worst offensive rebounding seasons in the league, they got over 40% of their own misses against both Wake and Duke. Vasquez again struggled against the Devils - 14 points on 17 shots plus 4 turnovers. On the season, he's produced just 32 points in 41.5 possessions used against Duke, and didn't post an offensive rating higher than 93 in any of the three games. Eric Hayes was ridiculous down the stretch to keep the game close - he hit a series of tough, well-defended shots off a variety of different moves from a variety of different places on the court - it had me saying "you've got to be kidding me" more than once.
Singler, Scheyer, and Smith had very nice games for Duke. Nolan played harassing defense and did solid point duty, hitting double figures for the first time in over a month. He also contributed three assists without turning the ball over. Scheyer was again a steadying hand at the lead guard and shot the ball well - in two games in Atlanta, he's 8-19 from 3, 2-2 from 2, and 8-10 from the line (yes, his two misses have come in key spots, but it's tough to blame a guy shooting 80%). And Singler showed that there are other ways to contribute when your shots aren't falling. On a day when he was just 3-12 from the field (and 1-9 from 2), he attacked the offensive glass and got himself to the line, ending up with a very solid offensive rating for his efforts.
K put the game in the hands of 5 guys. At the 12:05 mark, Henderson and McClure came in for Thomas and Williams, and that was Duke's last substitution. Smith, Scheyer, Henderson, McClure, and Singler played the game's final 20 possessions without a sub, and did enough to deliver Duke the victory. That lineup ended up just +2 on the game, but those five were clearly Duke's best players tonight, and they did what was necessary to deliver the win. Nolan proved especially valuable - the squad was +17! when he was in the game, and got outscored 16-5 when he was sitting.
Here's the HD Box, and the plus/minus for Maryland:
Tomorrow will be the third Duke/FSU matchup. Both games have been close Duke wins - by 8 at FSU and by 3 in Cameron in a nailbiter. The Noles have had difficulty stopping Singler and Henderson - the two have combined for 81 points in the two games and are a collective +39. The two games couldn't look more different. In the first, neither team could shoot, but FSU pounded the glass (47.92 ORB%) and turned Duke over (turnovers in 1 of every 4 Duke possessions). In the second, the Noles lit it up from the field (.567 efg%), but had no presence on the offensive glass (just 25.71 ORB%) and couldn't get the Devils to cough it up (turnovers in 1 of every 11 Duke possessions). Neither team needs this game for tournament reasons - I think Duke is locked into a 2 seed and FSU should have a 4 sewn up (although maybe they'd be a 5 with a loss, which is a bigger difference than one might think, since the 12s are usually the last at large teams, and the 13s are usually the first auto-bid teams, and there can be a substantial talent gap between the two). But both teams have played this weekend like they really want the title, and there will be zero punches pulled tomorrow afternoon.