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Duke 56, UVA 41: A Barn Builder

Duke vs UVA…. no burning allowedWell with all the much talked about injury issues for UVA’s front line, there wasn’t much suspense in the out come of last nights matchup for the Devils. To the Cavalier’s great credit they played Duke tough especially on defense and frustrated the taller, more talented Dukies to the tune of 18 turnovers and a season low 56 points (from a team averaging 83 on the season).  The early moments of the game the Hoos came out fired up and make Duke look like the shell shocked and nervous team of the first half against UNC. Duke clearly came in the game plan to take advantage of their height - but seemed unfocused and tried to force the ball inside even when the passes weren’t there. In the first 8 minutes they had 6 turnovers and only 3 made field goals while UVA had rattled off 10 straight points. But even though Virginia was able to force Duke into a slower tempo the whole game - they simply couldn’t score enough to stay competitive. Duke made its next three 3 pointers and continued to edge in front thanks to Nolan ‘Da Beast’ Smith and some nifty play from Ryan Kelly.

In the second half UVA went from bad to very, very bad: managing to decrease their 33% FG shooting of the first half to a coma-inducing 6-26 (23%).  After the third time hearing Mike Patrick say “Boy they just can’t buy a bucket” I wanted to be able to tell him that perhaps a more stringent turn of phrase would be in order.  Both teams had protracted and unproductive offensive possessions that were truly offensive. Duke only had 18 total shots in the second half but did manage to shoot 50% for the game as they salted away another victory.

On the plus side for Duke it was a win, and no road win should be taken for granted. They did have a plus 10 advantage on the boards and shot well from the floor. The Cavaliers missed a lot of shots - and the credit for that seems like it should be shared between tough Duke D and crumbling Cav confidence. On the minus side for Duke there were those 18 turnovers. Many of which were just shake-your-head-in-disgust kind of bad. Virtually everyone on the team took turns loosing their poise last night (with the exception maybe of Kelly) and trying much to hard to force things that didn’t need to happen. Tony Bennet’s teams play tough, scrappy, often frustrating D. If they would have been able to hit the broad side of a barn they could have made it a game. But in the end it was too much talent and the strength of Nolan Smith’s indomitable spirit that carried the day.

Notes:

  • I would obviously be remiss to not talk about what was probably Kyle Singler’s worst career game at Duke. Five turnovers, 4 fouls, 1-5 for two total points (his worst ACC scoring game ever). For Duke fans one can only hope that this is rock bottom. I pointed out in the comments after his poor game vs UNC that he has saved our bacon in a number of games this year, but things are not going well for him lately. Yes there has been poor shooting - but the only way to break out of that is to keep trying to take good shots. Yes he has tried more to take people inside lately - to very little positive effect. But the most troubling thing lately has been his visable and demonstrative frustration. As Marcellus Wallace said in Pulp Fiction, “That’s pride… f***ing with ya! F@#$ pride! Pride never helps. It only hurts. You fight through that sh**!” Perhaps a tenuous analogy on my part (and are we allowed to curse on this blog?) but it seems like mostly a mental struggle. Keep fighting Kyle!
  • Kelly really played well in his 33 minutes on the court (expanded partly for his positive play and partly to Singler’s foul trouble). 5-7 shooting for 11 points with most of that scoring coming inside. 4 big blocks including two on jump shots that were examples of his solid perimiter D as he was called upon to be part of Duke’s switching outside. I thought he played great against the much quicker guards of UVA (though until Eric Montross makes a comeback, anyone Kelly faces is probably quicker than he)
  • More of the same for Nolan Smith - 22 points,  7 boards, and 4 assists (should have been 5). Kendal Marshall will most likely pass him in the assist category in the next two weeks, but there is no competition for ACC POY. He is a beast yo. Go Beast Go.