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Duke 68, Cal 53 : 'D' and 'Z', Baby... 'D' and 'Z'

As I sat watching tonight’s game, I thought to myself, “Self, this might be the best game we’ve played all year. The only game to compare it to would probably be the Maryland game at Cameron.” So of course, I went and geeked out and compared them. Check it :

  • Maryland shot 38% from the field, 2-13 from 3, was outrebounded by 5 (39-34), had twice as many turnovers as Duke (14-7) and had 24 points at the half (54 for the game)
  • Zoubek had 16 points and 17 rebounds
  • Nolan Smith held ACC POY PG Greivis Vasquez to 2 points in the first half
  • 1 of the big three had a really off night (Singler 4-14 for 10 points) while the other 2 combined for 36

Compare those stats to tonight’s game versus the Cal bears:

  • Cal shot 39% from the field, 2-12 from 3, was outrebounded by 5 (34-29), had twice as many turnovers as Duke ( 10-5) and had 24 points at the half (53 for the game)
  • Zoubek had 14 points and 13 rebounds
  • Nolan Smith held PAC-10 POY PG Jerome Randle to 3 points in the second half
  • 1 of the big three had a really off night (Scheyer 1-11 for 7 points) while the other two combined for 37

Ta-DOW!!!  In the words of Col. John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, I love it when a plan comes together.

This, my friends, is the recipe for unmitigated Duke success: Defense, Rebounding, and 2 of the Big 3 rollin’ (since it is apparently a fundamental universal law that all 3 of them are not allowed to have a good night on the same night).

Cal started the evening scoring 9 points in the first 6 minutes but managed only 15 points in the final 14. On the offensive end, the Devils were paced by the hot shooting of Nolan Smith ( 5-10 , 11 points) and the hot rebounding of Zoubek (6 reb, 3 offensive). In the second half, Cal started by scoring 9 points in the first 5 minutes, but managed only 10 points over the next 13 ( including a 5 minute scoreless stretch from the 7 minute mark to the 2 minute mark). Remarkably, with the exception of 2 Scheyer free throws, every single one of Duke’s 31 second half points came from Smith, Singler and Zoubek. Even more remarkably, Duke shot a woeful 3-17 from 3 ( also paralelling the Md game where they went 5-15) and was still up 21 when the bench came in with 3 minutes left.

This last point illustrates the biggest difference between this Duke team and those of recent years.The idea of winning a game ( much less winning by 15 points going away) when shooting that poorly from 3 was pretty much inconceivable leading up to this year. But Duke version 2010 is, quite frankly, a fantastic defensive team (our 61 points ppg allowed is the best of any Duke team since 1950) and as such is able to overcome sour long range shooting nights like tonight. All 5 starters generally play excellent individual and team defense, and the Plumlees are noticeably improved. (Note: In addition to the aforementioned defense played by Nolan, Kyle was equally spectacular, holding Cal’s second leading scorer to 2 points on 1-4 shooting).

So, Duke now finds themselves back in the oh-so-Sweet Sixteen against an equally defensively minded Purdue team that pretty much no one, not even most Purdue fans, thought would be there. Perhaps more importantly, the Devils are headed to Houston playing some of their best basketball of the year.