I turned my eye to the scoreboard and lo ! the lead had ( somehow) greatly multiplied. And it was good.
After 20 minutes of solid 'meh' on Tuesday night, the Blue Devils pulled it together in a big way to send the hapless Hokies hying homeward. The Devils have now gone undefeated in Cameron in 3 of the last 4 seasons. That's pretty damned good. Some thoughts...
Stop Me If You've Heard This One - Remember that time when an opposing guard used a high ball screen ( or just decided to drive) to get into the lane for an easy floater or possibly miss, only to have his shot put back in after an offensive rebound ? yeah, good times...Anyway, so that pretty much sums up the first half for Duke on the defensive end. Coach K said in a post-game interview that Duke's defensive communication was non-existent, and it looked like it. After what I imagine was a , uh, 'spirited' locker room experience at half-time, the Duke players seemed to work out those kinks.They held VT to 22 points in the second half, 8 points over the final 10:26 and 2 points over the final 6:38, all on 32% shooting. Remember, Duke was one of the best defensive teams in the nation before Kelly went down, and it may be that they found a little bit of that again, which would obviously be huge. Duke's ability to pressure the ball out beyond the 3-point line (Which has been a constant, even without Kelly... they held VT to 29% from 3) is predicated on their bigs' ability to help in the paint if the guards don't contain. When there's only one big, and he's your leading scorer and is afraid of fouling, that is hard to do effectively. Ryan's length and defensive intelligence paid off again and again in the second half as Duke put a stop to the layup/offensive rebounding parade that has plagued them recently.
Winning Formula - Assist on 50% of your FGs ( 17 of 30 against VT...Duke leads the ACC in this 'stat', assisting on 55.5% of their made FGs on the year) + Low Turnovers ( 4 against VT...Duke leads the ACC in fewest TOs per game and TO margin) + Hold your own on the boards/At least don't get crushed on the offensive boards ( 37/11 for Duke 30/13 for VT) By the way, our two bigs both led the team in assists with 5 each. Gotta love that.
Rasheed - As mentioned several times on this blog, Rasheed's mental state has appeared a bit fragile after 2 performances that were not good, but were not nearly as bad as he seemed to think they were. Things seemed to come to a head in this one, as the impressive frosh had what can only be described as a case of the 'yips'. He dispensed with second guessing when he caught the ball on the offensive end, and went right to 3rd and 4th guessing. It was a little painful to watch his indecision, and, when Coach K pulled him out near the end of the half he knelt and spoke quietly to him for about 20 seconds on the bench. He did not start the second half after starting the game ( which Duke fans will recognize as significant in and of itself) and finally came in with only a few minutes left. To everyone's great relief he immediately attacked the rim for a layup and stepped back to drain a 3. Getting him right is going to ( obviously) be critical to Duke's performance going forward.
Runners up ? - 5 games ago the POY and FOY in conference belonged to Mason and Rasheed, and I don't think there was much question. Now, it seems possible that they will both finish second. Mason was good against VT, but not POY good, marking the 3rd straight game of sub-Mason performance. He would still get my vote, though. Erick Greene takes a million shots per game for a crappy team, Joe Harris is a ( very good) one-trick scoring pony, and Larkin, as good as he is, just doesn't have the numbers. ( Statistically, there's really not a lot separating Larkin and Quinn Cook). I think it will be easier for voters with the Freshman of the year, with Olivier Hanlon now in the top 10 in the league in scoring and Rasheed's late season funk.
You can stop some of them some of the time... - Holy Crap, stop the presses, Ryan Kelly shot less than 50% from 3-point range (2-7). The rest of the Devils? 10-16. Compare with the Miami game where Ryan was 7-9 and the rest of the team was 4-14. Yeah. We're collectively pretty dangerous from out there.
Seniors - You have to love a senior night where your seniors score 52 of your 87 points and put up great individual lines ( Ryan : 18, 9 and 5, Mason: 14,7, and 5, and Seth: 20 points and 5 rebounds) on the way to a solid team win. Great job guys. We will miss you way more than Holes fans won't !