Sunday, February 08, 2009

Duke 78, Miami 75 (and a wrap from the Clemson game)

There's obviously a lot of season to be played, and the team could very well make me look silly by coming out flat on Wednesday and getting run out of the building by the Heels, but there's a strong possibility that this team will look back to the second half and overtime of the Miami game as a turning point. Coming off of the debacle against Clemson, which was the lowest scoring output by Duke in this side of forever, the Devils managed to play even worse on offense in the first half against Miami. The numbers are alm0st comically bad - 6 of 31 from the field, including just 2 of 15 from inside. Only 4 of 24 offensive rebounds. 19 points in 34 possessions. They started 1-4 in the second half, and it looked like it might be Clemson redux. And then McClure checked in for Thomas, and all of a sudden, for whatever reason, it clicked.

Duke immediately went on a 20-4 run that tied things up at 42. Duke scored on 8 straight possessions thanks in part to improved shooting but also to a determination to hit the offensive glass and hit it hard. The Devils got 7 offensive rebounds in a row and held Miami to 7:30 minutes without a rebound on either end of the court. The effort that had been missing for the last three halves was back, and the Devils were once again working harder than their opponents and making plays because of it. In the second half and OT, Duke got 13 of 15 defensive rebounds and 14 of 28 offensive rebounds. They forced the Canes into 10 turnovers, and committed just 4. Most importantly, they got some offensive production, putting up 59 points in 42 possessions and walking away with a win.

We've seen the lineup that may carry us the rest of the way this season - Paulus, Scheyer, Henderson, McClure, and Singler. Those guys played 34 of the last 37 possessions of the game, and outscored Miami 50-32 over that stretch. 4 guys - Singler, Scheyer, Henderson, and Paulus gave us big offensive contributions (although Singler's day was really inefficient). And McClure simply controlled the boards - 13 rebounds, including 7 offensive, in just 29 minutes.

For Miami, Jack McClinton was ridiculous, with 34 points, including 5-6 threes (and the game tying shot at the end of regulation). Collins had a nice moment putting Paulus on a poster, but was otherwise completely neutralized. Again, the Canes couldn't force turnovers, and it really hurt them. Duke took 19 more shots from the field than Miami did, and on a day when they shot poorly, they needed every one of them to prevail. The Canes also struggled with turnovers of their own, coughing it up 19 times. It was a total team effort in that regard - 6 different players had multiple TOs during the game, including Dews, who "led" the way with 4 (marring an otherwise productive performance).

So now Carolina comes to town, and despite the offensive problems Duke has had this year, they'll be playing UNC for first place outright. Hopefully the style of play we see is more second half, and less first - this team needs to be up and energetic for the Heels.

A brief recap from Wednesday. Obviously, the offense against Clemson was bad, but the backbreaking part of the game was how poorly the defense played. Coming out of halftime, Clemson scored on 10 of the first 14 posssessions, scoring 22 points and completely putting the game out of reach. In that stretch, Clemson simply abused Duke on the glass, picking up 6 of their 7 misses and turning them into scores. Trevor Booker had the best game I've ever seen him play. He had a 165 offensive rating and converted possessions into scored over 80% of the time. He hit a wide variety of shots, played active on the boards, picked up 3 blocks, and ran the point of the press very well. It was a virtuoso performance.

Around the ACC

Carolina sleep-walked past Virginia 76-61. Jeff Jones and Sylven Landesberg turned in nice performances, but Virginia was just plain out-classed. Carolina particularly shut down the inside scoring, holding the Cavs to a woeful 13-43 from 2. For the Heels on offense, Ellington, Lawson, and Green led the way. They combined to hit 9-21 from downtown and picked up 17 assists against 2 turnovers. More troubling, the bench did nothing - 47 minutes, just 8 points and 5 turnovers.

Clemson led 44-25 with 14:45 left in the game. They led 57-42 with 8:46 to go. And then the offense stopped. FSU finished the game on a 23-4 run. The Noles scored on 11 of the final 13 possessions, shocking the Tigers and picking up a very big road win. Solomon Alabi had a nice final 8 minutes, picking up a couple key blocks, a few key baskets, and 4 big rebounds. For the Tigers, Terrence Oglesby was instrumental in the collapse, missing 3 threes and committing a costly offensive foul. From where I sit, FSU is sitting safely in the #5 position in terms of bid likelihood in the ACC (behind UNC, Duke, Wake, and Clemson). They don't have a bad loss anywhere on the resume, and have shown that they can beat pretty much anyone they play (the losses to Duke, Pitt, and UNC were by a combined 21 points).

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