I’m writing my summation of the Duke loss vs UVA in the ACC Championship (72-63) a little late for a reason. I often dive right in, especially after a loss while the wound is still fresh. I wanted to wait, think, ponder, reflect and look at why Duke lost this game.
Duke played fairly well for most of this game, they seemed to match UVA’s intensity and precision, just not for 40 minutes. It’s literally the difference between being ACC Champs and going home with nothing. If a few more shots go down – Duke got some good looks. If they get a couple of more stops – Duke made 3 more shots, shot 7 percentage points less than UVA.
UVA was a better team. Hard words to say, but at this point in the year they are just a better all around team. I think Tom Izzo said it best when describing his own team that they are just running out of time, that is it in a nutshell for Duke. I think Duke has the potential to be the best team in the country but that potential has yet to be realized and I’m not certain they have the time to do it. It seems like this entire year so far has been a race against time:
1. can we improve defensively quickly enough
2. can we get this team to work as a cohesive unit before tourney time
3. can we get this team to rebound competently before it’s the reason we lose games
Duke is rebounding better than it was, as far as the other two, well that is tough to say. Winning can cover up a lot and Duke has been fairly successful this year. In Duke losses it goes back to the same thing – defense, rebounding, toughness.
Duke didn’t rebound badly against UVA, nor did it turn the ball over an exorbitant amount. The most glaring stat in the loss was free throws. UVA was able to finish at the rim, and when they didn’t finish they got fouled. They were aggressive and took the ball right into the teeth of the Duke defense. The problem there is twofold, Duke must learn and learn quickly to defend without fouling, and secondly they have to force the issue on offense and get to the line. Some of it will involve finishing through the contact and some will involve being stronger with the ball. Teams are grabbing and ripping at rebounds and Duke more often than not is either having balls stripped or bringing the ball down and having it just muscled away. On top of that there is quite a bit of footage of guys watching and not reacting. Looking at whether the shot is going in rather than laying a body on someone and working for position, this is a recurring theme and problem. Duke needs to get more from the guard and wing spot in terms of rebounding. Amile and Jabari tend to do their parts but if Duke can get Rodney Hood to box out with consistency Duke could turn the tide and rebounding could become a strength. The problem is time, very little of it left. The next few days are critical for Duke, the coaching staff has their job in front of them, with a much more rushed time-table in order to get it done.
How do you make freshmen and sophomores play like juniors and seniors?
How do you get this team to play with toughness – something that isn’t teachable but preachable?
Stay tuned for these answers and more on as the ball bounces… #goduke