Friday, November 21, 2008

Duke 83, SIU 58

I got to see my first half of Duke basketball this season, and luckily it was the second one. In the first half, Duke simply played ugly. 6-19 from the field. 15 turnovers in roughly 38 possessions. I'm going to write that last one again - 15 turnovers in 38 possessions. Yikes. Fortunately for the Blue Devils, they did two things very well in the first half - defend and rebound. SIU shot just 8-32 from the field, and could only come up with 4 of the 27 available offensive rebounds. Duke held the Salukis to 23 points on 39 possessions - an excellent 58.97 D Rating for the half.

In the second half, the defense stayed sharp, and the offense finally clicked. After two early turnovers, Duke committed just two more in the last 16 minutes of the game. The Devils converted well from the field and exceptionally well from the line, getting 54 points in roughly 33 possessions - an excellent O Rating of 163.64. Included in that was the first seven-point possession I've ever seen, as a result of a Singler steal, a dunk+one, an intentional foul free throw (giving the ball back to Duke), and a Henderson made three. That sequence functionally ended the game - it pushed the lead either from 8 to 15 or 10 to 17 without the Salukis once touching the ball, and really broke the other side's spirit.

A couple of random thoughts (slightly inhibited by the fact that the MSG box scores don't include a play by play for some reason). First, the foul disparity was nothing unusual. SIU has made fouling part of its defensive philosophy (which is not to say they try to foul; rather, they accept the high foul count that naturally comes along with very aggressive and physical defense). In the past three seasons, they've finished 300th, 325th, and 331st in terms of opponent free throw rate; that is, their opponents' ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts is higher than almost any team in the country. Second, the Devils did great work exploiting this, both by pounding the ball inside to be in a position to get fouled, and by making free throws. Special credit to the bigs - Singler, Thomas, and Zoubek combined to shoot 18-20 from the line. Third, the ball movement was exceptional in the second half - 9 assists on 12 made field goals, and constant unselfish play across the board. One thing I may try to track tonight is Duke's FG% off the pass (plays where an assist would be credited) compared to off the dribble - last night I think there was a big disparity. Finally, this is a very, very versatile team. It has shooters. It has athletes (the Smith and Henderson dunks were great - the SIU point guard never suspected that Smith would just go up over him on the break). It has size (yes, it's true). And so it can both play and adapt to a variety of styles and game situations. This is critically important, because no defense can take away everything - there will always be a weakness somewhere. I think these Devils have the potential to adjust to any style of defense and exploit the weaknesses well.

No HD Box today (as mentioned, the box from MSG didn't have a play-by-play, let alone sub data). I'll try to figure out a way to put one together, but this may just be a missing game.

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