Well what I hoped I would see I saw for theÂ most part. Coach K put the players to the test and in turn they put Coach to the test.
It was good to see the bench being utilized, admittedly I would like to see more points coming from “the small 6” it was really just nice to see the big 3 sitting on the bench, even if just for 5 minutes a game. I know the wear down is coming, it may not manifest itself in missed jumpers but if we can get these guys in an actual rotation it could be the difference between a real run in the tourney or just being happy to be nominated. Yes, Jon Scheyer has not been hitting his shots consistently, watching him tonight I honestly think it’s less about his legs and more about shot selection. A lot of his shot misses were layups, over penetrating and not having a real good look at the goal. He’s not missing a ton of open shots so that is a good sign.
That all being said Duke did not play a very good first half of basketball, it wasn’t bad..they just seemed a step slow on offense. Things just weren’t as crisp as they could be. Adjustments were made and Duke came out of the locker room and dominated the rest of the game. Brian Zoubek is definitely coming into his own and at the right time, making nice deliberate moves to the hoop, knowing when he has a good shot and when he needs to push it back out to the guards. It’s amazing what happens when you feel the clock ticking and you know you need to make your mark. People will be talking about these games for a while to come, and teams now will have to prepare how to guard a Duke big man. Havent really been able to say that in a while. Zoubs has also been a force on the boards and the defensively. Color me impressed and really happy for him. I hope he continues and perhaps earns himself a shot at being a pro.
Kyle Singler occasionally has the edge on a defender be it size or speed or skill set. Tonight he was not faster than the people guarding him, he wasn’t stronger either. But by forcing the issue and creating contact and getting to the line. Kyle only shot 4 of 12 in this game but was 9 of 11 from the free throw line. Forcing the defense to react to you and manufacturing points is a huge part of his game and Dukes success.
It was good to see Miles Plumlee get some shine in this game, it must have been refreshing for him to see the ball go in and also to not be in foul trouble. With 6 points and 6 rebounds I am very happy with this performance. Between Zoubek and Miles thats 16 points and 17 rebounds. While Duke is not going to dominate the paint against any team, if there are other means of point production it only serves to help their chances in March.
Nolan Smith, the quiet assassin, also had a less that stellar percentage of shots going in he scored 18 and worked for every shot.Â Scoring on breakaways, outside shots, mid range jumpers. Nolan has definitely made huge strides since last year. He’s simply deadly off the dribble or screen. H was a variety of moves to the bucket that makes defenders have to respect and give space.
This was a brilliant scheduling move, I think this will energize the team as they return to conference play.