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Duke 84 BC 68 : No bench points? no problem...

Somewhere out there in the land of stat geeks, there is someone who has the time and/or inclination to determine how many times in NCAA history a team has scored more than eighty points without getting a single point from the bench. Since I’m not that guy, you’ll just have to settle for the following educated guess : not many.

But that’s exactly what went down in Cameron on Thursday night, as the Blue Devils beat up on the surprising BC Eagles in a win that gave Duke sole posession of first place in the ACC.

For Duke, it was the Ryan Kelly show early, as the sophomore forward went 4-4 over the first 10 minutes in scoring 9 of Duke’s 15 points. ( Incidentally, that made Ryan 14-14 from the field dating back to the State game. Another stat geek needed here to determine who the last Blue Devil was to do that…) Boston College stayed with Duke, however, as outside of Kelly, the Devils were sluggish and ineffective on offense, going nearly 5 minutes without a bucket in that first 10 minute span. Duke broke out of its funk, pushing the lead to 22-15  on the strength of some solid defensive play, as Kelly blocked a couple of shots that led to Nolan Smith scores and Kyle went coast-to-coast with a steal/dunk. But, just as our defense tooketh away, it quickly gaveth right back. The Devils went in to the game with a defensive strategy geared towards a) shutting down leading scorer Reggie Jackson and b) shutting down BC’s three point attack. Over the course of the game they were extrememly successful in both endeavors, but one of the risks of executing the latter was falling prey to backdoor cuts when pressuring BC’s shooters beyond the arc. From the 6:42 mark to the 5 minute mark , that’s exactly what happened. Duke gave up 10 points on 5 straight Eagle posessions, three of which were easy back-door buckets by BC’s Corey Raji. That run, plus a Biko Paris 3 point shot pulled the Eagles to within 1, at  28 -27 with 3:12 left. Duke recovered their defensive focus and scored on 5 of its 6 final posessions,( including 6 points from Seth Curry) to take a 42-31 halftime lead.

As has been well documented on this site, Duke has made a bad habit this year of getting outplayed to start second halves. It looked as though it might be happening again, as BC started on a 6-2 “run” in the first 2 minnutes, but Seth Curry and Nolan Smith simply took the game over. From the 17:40 mark to the 6 minute mark, Seth and Nolan had a hand, either directly or indirectly, in all 26 points scored ( Seth: 10 pts 1 assist, including an absolute dagger of a transition 3 pointer,and Nolan: 14 pts 4 assts). The Duke defense was stellar for a big chunk of that time as well. From 17:40 to 12:25, they turned BC over 5 times and gave up only two field goals in a 17 - 5  run that was only part of a bigger 26-9 explosion, which carried the Blue Devils to an insurmountable 69-47 advantage. {It should be noted that Coach K was as animated during this stretch as I’ve seen him in years. He jumped up and down on the sideline, he exhorted the (surprisingly tepid) Cameron Crazy crowd, and actually got down on his knees to slap the floor at one point in an effort to vitalize Duke’s defense. The guy looked like he was 35 ! It was great to see him so energized and to see the crowd and the team respond so palpably.}

In general, I would argue that this was Duke’s best all-around game since Kyrie went down with his injury. They shot well from the field throughout ( 50 % for the game) , including 10-23 from distance. They finished with 16 assists to only 7 turnovers and had 10 steals. They held Jackson, the ACC’s second leading scorer at 18.5 ppg, to 7 points on 3 - 11 shooting and held the Eagles, the ACC’s second best three point shooting team, to 7-20 from beyond the arc. Aside from a sluggish start on offense and the aforementioned defensive lapse in the first half, there just wasn’t a whole lot to complain about in this one.

Game Notes

- Mason was, well, masonic. Actually, he was a little better than that. He pulled down 12 boards and went 3-4 from the field to finish with 8 points. It was a really solid effort in general. His finishing and free throw woes are still very present, however. Though fouled, he missed two point blank attempts (causing me to slap my forehead) which resulted in two empty trips to the line.( you can see how much of his free throw shooting woes are in his head these days. talk about a guy who’s lost confidence…) His rebounding output has drawn comparisons to Zoubek’s contributions last year. In his most impressive stretch last year, Z pulled down 79 boards in 7 games ( starting with his 17 rebound beast-out against UMD). Mason has 62 in his last 5 games, so he’s going to approximate that output. The main difference between them is that almost half of Z’s total in that run were OFFENSIVE rebounds (35) whereas Mason has only 19. As Mason improves this ability ( and the art of the putback, which, admittedly , took Zoubek 4 years to learn how to do properly) the Devils will reap some serious rewards.

- Kyle had another sub-par shooting performance from distance. In his last 4 games he is 8-28 from 3, but 17-34 from 2.

- Andre played only 10 minutes, taking only 1 shot. He’s definitely lost some momentum lately, as Ryan and Seth have both had hot hands. Of those 3 players, I would have thought him the least likely to lose minutes.

- Miles didn’t have a notable game stat wise, but was very disruptive defensively. He succumed a bit to “silly foul syndrome”, picking up 3 in 14 minutes.