Throughout the Mike Kryzyzewski era, Duke has seemingly always set aside one scholarship for a very tall, athletically-challenged man of caucasian descent, starting with Dan Meagher and Martin Nestle, and moving up through the years with the likes of Clay Buckley, Eric Meek, Taymon Domzalski, and Matt Christensen. You know, players that you could easily see playing for schools like Wisconsin or BYU. The most recent addition to this roll of role players is one Brian Zoubek, who has historically performed quite well against teams with small front lines, going all the way back to his very first game freshman year against Columbia (17 pts, 7 rebs). On the other side of the equation , he has struggled mightily against teams with taller/more athletic front lines, where his height advantage is nullified and his lack of athleticism is exploited (usually to the tune of foul trouble and having his shot blocked rather frequently). He’s one of those players about whom you frequently hear the phrase, “He gets the most out of his abilities”, which is to say that he works hard, but has a very well defined (and relatively low) ceiling as far as talent and athletic abilities are concerned.
Enter the Maryland game. As the teams took the court, I commented to my friend that Maryland’s apparent lack of interior size might prove fertile ground for some Zoubekian havoc wreaking (or something like that). I had NO idea what was in store. Oh, the havoc! Oh, the wreaking! Brian Zoubek had already played his best game in a Duke uniform before the game was two-thirds through, but finished with a mind-bending 16 points and 17 boards (7 of which were offensive). And here’s the most impressive part: he did it in 22 minutes! Maryland simply had no answer for Zoubek on the boards and his strong defensive play disrupted their offense time and again, allowing them nothing easy inside. Brian Zoubek, for all that he has provided Duke fans with some frustrating moments over the years with missed point blank layups, slow decision making, and silly fouls, works his butt off and NEVER lacks for effort. As such, it was a real treat to watch him have a career day with the backdrop of K’s 1000th game, K’s birthday, and a game for first place in the ACC against the hated Terrapins. Hats off to Z!!!
As for the non-Zoubek related storylines, it was arguably Duke’s best defensive performance of the year. They held the league’s best shooting team (48% avg) to 38% from the field, the league’s second highest scoring team (80 ppg) to 56 points, and the league’s leading assist team (17 apg) to 10 assists. Offensively, Singler and Smith both struggled against a pretty strong Maryland defense that seems to match up well with Duke on the perimeter. Smith never found a comfort zone working against the height of Vasquez and Hayes, and Singler wasn’t able to get many easy looks against Milbourne, though he did play fantastic defense, holding Milbourne (14 ppg) to 2 points. Scheyer and Zoubek were able to carry the offensive load, with Scheyer playing his usual steady, patient, sneaky game (22 pts) and Z chipping in second-chance points (7-10 from the floor). Perhaps most significantly, Duke only turned the ball over 7 times on offense and few of those were of the dreaded “live ball” variety.
Duke pretty much owned this game from the 15 minute mark on going on a 7 minute 21-8 run, and held Maryland to a feeble 14 points in the first 15 minutes of the game. Duke pushed the lead out to 20 early in the second and then played Maryland pretty much even until Vasquez (who had been held in check) went off like Hugo Chavez on George Bush and dropped 9 points in a minute and a half. A strong defensive stand and a couple of solid offensive posessions pushed the lead back up to 14 and Duke never looked back.
As Alex accurately observed after the game, Duke played a really smart game today. They communicated well on defense, didn’t turn the ball over, and, though they struggled shooting the ball from outside, took very few bad shots. It was a day of good decision making all around, with Coach K’s decision to start Brian Zoubek probably the best of the lot.
- Lance was a surprise start. It was great to know he’ll be back at full speed sooner than expected. We certainly need his defense and energy.
- Duke’s bench had 11 points and 8 rebounds
- Cameron was rockin’ for this game and Coach K was as animated in encouraging the crazies as I’ve ever seen him. Chant of the game : “Fear the Zoubek!”
- A great big congratulations to Coach K on his 1000th game coached at Duke. He’s the best there is and he’s all ours (assuming he doesn’t go coach the New Jersey <snicker!> Nets)