Here’s the winning formula for Duke 2009-2010 folks: rebounding, defense and freethrows.
Rebounding: Duke ranks 16th nationally in rebounding ( 39.8), is tied for 2nd in offensive rebounds per game (15.2) and easily leads the ACC in rebounding margin ( 6.5).
Defense: Duke ranks 2nd nationally in 3-pt FG defense ( 27.4) , 2nd in the ACC in scoring defense ( 62.1 pg). and 20th nationally in turnover margin ( 3.6)
Free Throws: Duke ranks 8th nationally in Free Throw % ( 75.9).
During their current 7 game winning streak , Duke has held opponents to fewer than 57 points four times , has had three games with 20 plus offensive rebounds, and shot better than 80% from the line three times.
The shadowy spot during this streak ( and at times this season) has been the shooting. Two halves shooting 23% and three halves shooting 35 % or less.
Now, let’s go half by half in the Tulsa game and see how well Duke did at what Duke does well.
Rebounding: Duke outrebounded Tulsa 24-20, and had 12 offensive boards
Defense: Duke won the turnover batttle 7-2, held Tulsa to 1-7 from 3 point range and 30 points on 13-35 shooting
Free Throws: Duke shot 8-10 from the line.
To the negative, Duke had another abysmal shooting half ( 12-38) paced by Nolan Smith ( 3-12) and as a consequence led only 34-30. Zoubek played extremely well ( again) with 8 and 8.
Rebounds: Duke outrebounded Tulsa 16 - 9, 5 offensive boards
Defense: Duke won the turnover battle 6-2, and held the Golden Hurricane to just 22 points on 6-23 shooting (0-3 from 3pt range), including holding them to a remarkable 10 points in the first 11 minutes!!
Free Throws: Duke shot 14-18 from the line.
Duke shot 12-25 from the field (A vast improvement to say the least) and won the game going away.
So there you have it. It was pretty much a prototype game for this year’s squad : overcoming some poor shooting with consistency on defense, on the glass, and at the charity stripe. The big three carried the offensive load as usual ( on 33% shooting), but got some help from Zoubs ( 10 points/11 boards) and Miles Plumlee ( 6 points/6 boards). Lance Thomas had a very productive evening as well , pulling down 10 boards ( 5 offensive).
At the end of the day, though, you have to put the ball in the basket to win. And while good defense will often put you in a position to win, bad shooting can keep the other team right in it. If this team shoots well, I feel confident they can beat anybody in the country, because they do everything else it takes to win. If they shoot poorly, overcoming elite teams will be very tough.