Let’s start with the positives : 1)Miles Plumlee had a great game off of the bench with 7 points and 11 rebounds 2) Seth Curry was fantastic with 20 points on 6-11 shooting from beyond the arc and 3) Nolan continued to state his case for National Player of the Year with a 30 point showing.
Ok, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…
You know, I was fully mentally and emotionally prepared to handle a loss in this game. It didn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize that Carolina was primed for an ‘upset’ ( I mean, literally every TV prognosticating personality picked the Heels to win). And while a Duke victory was still a very reasonable expectation, I was personally hoping, win or lose, for a performance that strongly belied the poor run of form ( to use the soccer terminology) that the Devils had been on over their last 2 games.
I’m disinclined to give a blow by blow account of this one, since 1) you all saw it and 2) the game trends were broad and pervasive and open to a summary account. Suffice it to say that the first 2 minutes were a suitable adumbration for the following 38, when the UNC-farewell-seniors team of small,scrubby white guy x 3 ( and Justins Knox and Watts) beat the Duke starters 4-0. Duke did not bother taking one shot inside the 3-point line despite having a ridiculous height advantage at every position and bricked up 3 hots right off of the bat. The tone was set, and when the height advantage disappeared, the long-range shots just kept right on clanging to the woeful tune of 4-15 from beyond the arc in the half. Not so for UNC, who’s only glaring weaknesses this year have been their inability to score outside of the paint and, to a certain extent, to defend outside of it. The Heels shot a blistering 58% in the first half, and did it from all over the court; three pointers, mid-range jumpers, put-backs, you name it. After the first 10 minutes, during which the teams played pretty evenly, things started to resemble the St. John’s game a great deal as Duke’s frustration at their own offensive ineptitude began to impact their performance on the defensive end. Carolina scored 31 points in the final 10 minutes of the half to finish with a stunning 51 points and a 12 point advantage.
Duke came out of the locker room and showed a little pluck, cutting the Tar Heel lead to 5 and giving us all a little hope that another second half comeback wasn’t out of the question. Unfortunately, The sequence that followed epitomized the evening for Duke and for Kyle Singler, who, sadly and for whatever reason, just hasn’t been the same player this year. Singler had the ball stripped at the top of the key by that Skyping a-hole Harrison Barnes for an easy layup and then missed a wide-open three (one of 5 such shots) that would have cut the lead to 4. Kyle finished the night 3-14 and was just completely effectless on the offensive end. UNC was able to build the lead back up to double digits and, though their shooting percentage regressed to the mean somewhat ( 44%), they were able to keep the Devils at arm’s length thanks to Duke’s continued and exasperating inability to score the ball. From the 16 minute mark on, Nolan and Seth were the only Blue Devils who scored and between them they had only 5 field goals and 19 points. 16 minutes, 2 players, 19 points, 5 field goals. Game. Over.
I’m trying real hard not to give in to pessimism here, but that damn glass just keeps looking half-drunk to me. Outside of Miles, the bench was a complete non-factor ( right down to Andre’s totally demoralizing missed free throws at the end), Kyle’s shot has completely abandoned him and even Nolan, who’s scoring has kept us afloat, has been horribly turnover prone of late and isn’t being nearly as productive in other ways. Basically we are a jump shooting team that can’t shoot very well and doesn’t play well enough defensively to compensate for it (as last year’s team was able to do). Kyle has to find his scoring touch again for this team to have any kind of post-season success, especially since it’s doubtful that our defense is suddenly going to turn it around over the next several days.
- Ryan Kelly, as you are all doubtlessly aware, was awful on both ends of the court. Virtually every one of his 6 missed threes were wide-open looks and he was more or less a liability on defense.
- Mason was in foul trouble the entire game ( at least two of his ultimate 5 were highly suspect, but, them’s the breaks) though he still managed 9 boards. As mentioned, his brother did a fantastic job of filling in.
- Duke finished the game 6-27 from 3 -point range. Against VT we were 4-20. Against Saint John’s we were 5-29. Against FSU we were 11-35. In those games Kyle is 7-30. If you are a team that pins it’s offensive hopes to the three-point shot and you shoot under 30%, you better play damn good defense and/or rebound the hell out of the ball or you are pretty much done. Which is exactly what Duke will be if this trend continues.