To quote Borat (which I generally try to avoid)...wowwowweewow !
Ah, le mot juste!
I think we were all (Coach K included) left without the adequate vocabulary to tackle Saturday's performance by Ryan Kelly. To put up numbers like that, against a team of that caliber, in a game that big would have been astonishing on its own. But to do it after being sidelined for over 6 weeks and after never having participated in a full practice?? That, friends and unfriends, is the stuff of Cameron and Duke legend. As K said, it just doesn't happen. Except it did.
The numbers speak for themselves ; 32 minutes (amazing in its own right), 36 points on 14 shots (7-9 from 3), 7 boards, 2 steals and 1 floor slap (but more on that, anon). For more on exactly how this performance stacks up against other legendary Cameron performances from the K era, check back tomorrow morning for Alex's article on that topic.
So, Duke won and Ryan Kelly was amazing and has returned from injury. Huzzah!!! These are very, very, hugely good things. Unfortunately, if you step back from this game for a little perspective, they are about the only good things. Sorry to rain on everybody's parade, but here's what I mean.
Offensive Defense - That was a clinic on how not to play the pick and roll. Miami's guards drove around Duke defenders all day like they were standing still, to either a) sink easy floaters and layups or b) miss said floater and create the opportunity for second chance points. I have taken to calling this Duke's "Orange Cone" defense. In all seriousness though, this kind of high ball pressure D is really effective at stopping the 3 (Duke held Miami to 28 % from behind the arc, which is right at their ACC leading defensive average). It is, however, really ineffective at stopping anything else (like driving and laying the ball in, for instance) Much of Shane Larkin's well deserved confidence on this day was generated by his ability to get to the rim at will. Now, that same confidence also lead him to take several ill-advised shots from distance and commit several careless turnovers. So, maybe the Duke defensive strategy is to allow opposing players to become so overconfident that they start taking ridiculous shots. I, personally,would strongly advise against this going forward, but that's just me. I would also add that Quinn Cook's defense has slipped quite a bit of late. Since his 'Matador' on Seth Allen at the end of the Maryland game, he's really had a hell of a time staying in front of the ball.
Our Rebounding Was Also Offensive - By which I mean it wasn't. In the last 4 halves of play Duke has pulled down a pathetic 7 (!!!!!!) offensive rebounds and has been outrebounded by 24 altogether (40-27 against Miami). That is bad, even by Duke's no-that-great rebounding standards. Against Virginia, Duke was outscored 18-5 on second chance points and the margin last night was even worse, at 20-4. This is an unsettling trend to say the least and brings me to my next point...
No Amile ? Really ?? None ??? - I know he may blow some defensive assignments and make some mental errors, but if there's one thing Amile Jefferson does consistently well and better than anyone else on the team by A Mile (get it ?) it's fight for rebounds on the offensive end. Far be it from me to question the all-time winningest coach, but, as wretchedly horrible as Duke has been on the boards of late, it's really hard for me to understand how he gets ZERO minutes in this game.
Mason - I kind of don't even know where to begin. The guy has been such a monster for most of the year, and has really carried the load while Ryan was out, so part of me is reluctant to heap criticism on him. But, here goes. He has really hit the skids with his rebounding and defense of late. Duke has enough offensive weapons to survive without Mason putting up his season average of 17 every night but they can not and will not have an extended post-season with Mason pulling down only 5 or 7 rebounds per game (as he has in his last 2 games) or grabbing only 1 offensive rebound per game (as he has in his last 5 ). Over the last 5 games, his rebounding positioning on the offensive end has been astonishingly woeful. The O-boards he does grab seem to be almost by accident. And then there's his defense. He is maddeningly hesitant to challenge drivers at the rim (is he just not confident that his co-defenders will "help the helper" and pick up his man? Is he hamstrung with concern about getting in foul trouble?) and yet, seems to offer just enough ineffective defensive help to take him out of rebounding position. In his defense's defense, I will paraphrase this Tweet from yesterday" Mason's defense has been bad, but Duke's perimeter defense is giving him plenty of chances to prove it." One hopes that the return of Ryan will ease his burden enough to allow him to rebound from his rebounding slump and figure out how to be somewhat productive on defense again.
Late Game (non) Execution - In the final 1:36 of a relatively close game, going 4-8 from the line and committing 2 turnovers and 2 fouls will usually get you beat. It probably should have yesterday, in all honesty, but the basketball Gods smiled kindly upon Duke. (I propose that Mason should, henceforth no matter how confident he feels, try very, very hard not to be the person holding the ball in "must foul" situations for the other team). This is not the first time this year that this has happened, either. Against State in Cameron, Duke committed 4 TOs in the last 2 minutes and the final 4 minutes against Wake at Wake Duke went 3-6 from the foul line. Also, if that's how we're going to play after slapping the floor, maybe we should leave it to Wojo from now on.
Notes - With the very notable exception of Ryan Kelly, Miami's defense was really good. Particular kudos go to Durand Scott for his defense on Curry, holding him to 2-8 from the floor. Mason, Seth, and Rasheed had 25 points combined...Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that Seth Curry never seems to hit the front end of his 3 foul shot opportunities??... For the love of all that is holy, can someone please show Josh Hairston how to set a LEGAL screen ?!? ... Rasheed has had two very bad games in a row; 2-10 against UVA , and 7 points and 4 TOs against Miami. What is worrisome to me is not that he has had a couple of off-games, but that he seems to beat himself up about his mistakes (or gets upset at bad calls) to the extent that it is negatively affecting his overall play. Now, I recognize that he has used this very same personality trait to spur himself to great achievements this year, but, as with most things of this nature, it is a double edged weapon. He needs to harness that desire for perfection post-haste ... When Ryan Kelly hit his first shot it is probably the loudest I have ever heard Cameron get, save maybe 2 or 3 other occasions. That's in about 12 (non-consecutive) season's worth of home games.
A Little Levity - Here are some of the headlines we didn't use for today
"Quoth R.Kelly "I believe I can Fly' "
Duke 79 Miami 76 : Ryan Kelly Gets 2 Steals in Duke Victory
Coach K Finally Relents to Fan Pressure to Give Kelly some Burn Against Miami
Ryan Kelly Returns in Triumphant One-Man Court Storming
Ryan Kelly Slaps Floor, Miami as Duke Rides Out the Hurricane