You want to know a good way to start a game ? Hit 6 of 10 shots in the first 8 minutes and go 5-5 from 3-point range.
You want to know a good way to finish a game ? Hit 7 of 12 3 -pointers over the next 32 minutes while holding your opponent to 1-14 from distance.
OK, great ! Thanks for reading !!
In all seriousness, Duke played arguably its best game since Ryan went down, and did it against a VT squad that (though DFL in the conference) had recently managed to take both UNC and State to OT in their own gyms. While expecting a Duke victory ( though to be fair away games in the ACC this year are no gimmies no matter WHO you're playing), I was apprehensive around Duke's ( and esp. Mason's) fatigue level coming off of that 3 game in 6 day stretch. Was that a product of that tough section of the schedule or was it a sign of a team wearing down? I think I got my answer.
Here are my impressions...
The Bad - Quinn played only 18 minutes because he picked up 3 early fouls ( 2 of which were facepalm worthy). That's pretty much all I've got. Oh, also, the officiating was horrific. NCAA refs really have no clue how to call blocks and charges anymore. It seems completely random at this point. I think they just close their eyes and yell the first thing that pops into their heads. Also, the 'no call' has become to refs what the bank shot is to the players : a relic that is rarely employed, and when it is, it isn't well done.
The Good - I mean, what's not to like ? Josh played with great confidence on the offensive end AGAIN ( and took 2 "charges" ), scoring 11 and playing well despite early foul trouble. Tyler took over for Quinn and had 6 points , 5 assists and no turnovers. Alex Murphy played one of his better games and made a reverse layup that reminded us all why the staff was so excited about him at the beginning of the year. Rasheed looked ( as he can sometimes) a little frantic and out of control initially, but stabilized himself to drop in a very "quiet" 17 on 7-11 shooting to go along with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Seth put on a shooting display in the first half the likes of which we haven't seen since JJ, going 5-6 from distance and putting his previous sub-par efforts against his dad's alma mater behind him. And Mason came out with a lot of great defensive energy. He looked like a man who had decided not to play like he couldn't afford to get into foul trouble. His overall play was excellent, and, though he only took six shots, he contributed positively in almost every way that a player can. That, in some sense, was a better way to bounce back than if he had just gone for 25 and 10.
The Other Good - Defense. Holding Erick Green to 22 points on 14 shots with only one made 3 is a coup. The guy averages nearly 20 shots per game in ACC play. More impressive than that, though, is holding the rest of the Hokies to 34 points on 0-14 3 -point shooting. The talking that Duke was doing defensively was really nice to see/hear. That's the best that's been since Ryan went down. ( Duke's opponents are shooting 48 % against them post -injury. Pre-injury, that number was 37%. That adds up to probably somewhere close to 10 points per game)
Duke committed 5 total turnovers, assisted on 15 of their 30 FG attempts, outrebounded VT 34 - 25, shot 70 % from 3, shot 54% overall, and shot 16-21 from the foul line. They are now 8-3 without Kelly. No Duke fan can be unhappy with that.