Now, no one in their right mind would argue that losing Kyrie Irving was anything but a negative for the Duke Blue Devils, but there’s no doubt that the silver lining has been the emergence of Nolan Smith as one of the top 2 or 3 players in the country.
Nolan continued his torrid play on Wednesday night against the UAB Blazers by dropping a career high 33 points on them. It marked the fifth straight game of 22 or more points for Smith, a scoring streak the likes of which Duke fans haven’t seen since JJ Redick (who, incidentally,had a five game streak of 30 plus points during his senior year). He was, at times ( and by “times” i mean ” for the duration of the game”) simply unguardable. Currently Nolan is averaging 18.6 points, 5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. The last person in a Duke uniform to average at least 18 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 5 apg for a season was ( in a a beautiful stroke of synchronicity) none other than Johnny Dawkins, who is personally responsible for Nolan coming to Duke.
As for the game itself, Duke came out and just smacked the Blazers in the mouth. In the first minute-and- a-half they hit 3 shots and stole the ball 3 times. Nolan scored 10 points in the first 4.5 minutes while UAB went 1-10 from the floor in the first 7 minutes. Kyle then dropped in 7 points in a little under 2 minutes to push the lead to 28-7 with 13 minutes left. The Blazers did eventually get their sea legs underneath them at the 12 minute mark and actually outscored Duke 29-23 to close the half, as the Devils started finessing things a bit on offense instead of attacking and lost a little focus on the defensive end as Coach K ( surprisingly) went to his bench. The Devils led 51-36 at the half.
The second half was considerably more of a grind, with UAB and Duke playing to essentially a tie over the first 12 minutes. The Blazers clearly tried to get more physical with Duke, particularly with Nolan and Kyle as evidenced by the fact that both UAB players guarding them fouled out of the game ( they actually fouled out 3 starters in toto. I can’t remember the last time I saw that). It looked like this took its toll on Kyle who had another sub-par shooting performance ( 5-18, including 2 air balls and a number of shots that barely got to the rim). The final eight minutes went unremarkably, the exception being an emphatic and impressive slam dunk that gave Nolan his career high.
- Mason had what Coach K referred to as ” his best game as a Blue Devil” scoring 14 points on 6-9 shooting , grabbing 8 rebounds and blocking 2 shots. This more than made up for his brother’s night. Miles managed 4 fouls in 11 minutes, at least 2 of which were of the forehead-slapping, head-buried-in-hands variety. Mark my words, when we lose this year it will be because our frontcourt handcuffs us with silly fouls, most likely against another skilled frontcourt, which we have yet to face. UNC anyone ??
- Ryan and Andre both had very solid games again, doing a little bit of everything. They are both fantastic complimentary players this year, who will grow in to great frontline players in the future.
- Jamarr Sanders is the real deal for UAB. This guy could play for anybody. Wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see him playing SG in the League down the road.