Duke had its hands full yesterday with a savvy Marquette team that was supposed to be 8th/9th in the Big East this year. (maybe pre-season prognostication should just go by the wayside, eh? Like putting UNC 8th in the country… but let me not digress)
Marquette opened the game slowly - missing a lot of shots while Duke looked to establish Mason as a scorer. He had 6 early points, but his night was far from over. The Devils looked like they were going to blow the game open at the 11 minute mark with back to back to back 3’s to push the lead to 23-9. It was a really nice stretch for Kyrie as he hit the first one, made a nice dish to Kyle for the second, and showed great vision on a 50 foot cross-court transition pass to Curry for the third. But then Duke had empty trips on 6 of the next 7 possessions including a couple turnovers on what should have been easy transition buckets (or what we in the pickup world would call Cherry-picking). All told Duke had 11 first half turnovers (8 more in the second half) which continues a trend that we can only hope is just early season adjustment.
In the second half Mason and Ryan Kelley both had some early buckets but instead continuing to look inside Duke was settling for jump shots and not hitting. On the other sideline Marquette’s shooters finally woke up and chipped away at the Duke lead. Butler and Johnson-Odom willed the Golden Eagles back into the game with the kind of tough-nosed athleticism that is the Big East calling card. With 11 minutes to play Johnson-Odom capped the run with what was nearly a four-point play (foot was just inside the line) and we had a tie ball game at 53 all. Coach K was busy ripping the team a new orifice during the resulting time out and much to the Devil’s credit they were able to respond. Singler drove hard to pick up a foul (which was called unlike several first-half non-calls that Duke had been fishing for) and Mason then had huge offensive rebounds on the next two possesions: one for a put back and one with his best Brian Zoubek impression finding a wide open Nolan Smith for a triple. That was the start of a 17-4 run that saw Mason Plumlee showing the kind of promise people have been predicting since he arrived and Duke. Big baskets inside, important rebounds and intimidating blocks were all part of the show. Marquette made the final margin closer during the last 5 minutes (including calling a time out with 1.9 seconds to play down by 5???) but it seemed it was the classic case of a team burning itself out to tie the game and not having enough in the tank to respond to the counter punch.
The K-State game tomorrow should be fun to watch - especially given its a virtual home game for the Wildcats. It smells an awful lot like Duke/Baylor from last year only this time we don’t have our 3 senior leaders to keep the ship steady as she goes.
- Andre Dawkins played a huge part of Duke’s second half barrage to put the game away. He had a steal for a break away, a nice mid-range jumper and an assist to one of Mason’s dunks. But more importantly he seemed really emotionally involved and intense. Very incouraging.
- So so so early in the year to be playing nearly a 6 man rotation. Why oh why Coach K must you punish me so….?
- Mason’s final line: 12-16 shooting, 25 huge points, 12 boards (6 offensive), 5 blocks and 3 assists. Wowzer.