Here’s how it happened and why …
THURSDAY night, Duke met North Carolina State, a team who had embarrassed them, 87-75, at home, early on in the conference season. This time, it was Duke who would be causing the embarrassment with a 77-53 trouncing of the WolfPack.
The Box Score shows 4 Starters and 2 Bench Players scoring in double-digits, and some seriously great rebounding, led by Justise and Amile. The most interesting aspect is that “Oaks” only played 19 minutes, while “Plums” logged in 21 minutes, scoring 12 Points, and blocking 3 Shots, having his best game at Duke.
Another interesting aspect was that Duke shot only 13 times from outside the Arc, compared to 53 from inside … very much inside when you consider “Plums” logged 6 out of 6 Dunks !!!
There’s why this run-away game was so unique compared to what we would see the next night. Duke moved the ball incredibly well, always finding the free man, even if the ball was passed 4-5-6-7 times. When Duke shares the ball, they play exceptionally well. This, opposed to dumping the ball into “Oaks” and standing around, waiting for him to either score or dish out. Under those circumstances, they don’t move the ball, and are often flatfooted and detached.
On this evening we would also see the future of Duke. Grayson Allen, who had an exemplary game, banging out 12 Points with 3 Rebounds, 3 Assists, and 2 Blocks. His energy and verve on both sides of the Court was great to see !!!
THEN there was Friday night, a night that would be the complete opposite of the previous night.
Duke came out sluggish, while Notre Dame came out with a firm, smart, and simple Game Plan. They would not double-team “Oaks” and pretty much allow him to score. Oh, they’d put up some resistance, and even foul-out their Center, but it was as if the were playing “sucker.” “Oaks” would drop in 28 Points on 8 Rebounds and a Block. Plus, his terrible performance from the Charity Stripe was exploited, as yet another team would “Poke the Oak” …
The brilliance of the Game Plan was that everyone else was shut down with an excellent perimeter defense. A defense that kept Duke to 18% shooting from outside the Arc. Quinn Cook took just one shot for a Trifecta in the 1st Half, and would try only 7 more in the 2nd Half, scoring only once in total. He literally ran out of time to find his usual rhythm.
Mike Brey, a former Assistant Coach to Coach K from way back, would out-coach his mentor. His players executed the Game Plan to perfection, while Coach K could not get his players to execute anything as they did the previous night. It was a pathetic effort to say the least.
Early on, Coach K (lip read by Jay Bilas) lamented “No one wants to play tonight !!!”
After sleeping on it, it’s pretty obvious that just about every good coach in the country has realized where Duke’s Achilles Tendon is. Each of the losses so far this season were similar. There is no need to shut down “Oaks” because when you allow him to have his way, you lure the rest of the squad into a malaise that’s almost hypnotic.
Sleep-walking, or maybe sleep-standing, players do not achieve … they watch. Sure, “Oaks” is an exceptional player, but one player does not a successful team make. Duke does not have just one exceptional player, but if they are not involved, they fail. Friday night they failed.
During the game, we were lamenting the play, and especially the lack of Defense. Actually, there was no Defense. Ro made the most profound observation in our last article where he observed that: “… Duke’s idea of Defense is to outscore their opponents.” Nary have truer words been spoken. Duke played little or no defense, and everyone else was shut out from scoring.
Warm up the Bus, it’s time to go home.
Moving forward, it appears as of this writing that Duke may have preserved it’s #1 Seed. If so, they’d most likely be playing in Charlotte. You can bet that many in the media, as well as the opposing #16 Seed coach will want to see history made by being the first to knock off a #1 Seed. Why not, Mercer and Lehigh figured it out, why not another Cinderella ???
If Coach K does not get his team to play as a total team, and that means all 8 guys, they will be warming up the bus a lot sooner again this year. This is not the way you want to go into the Big Dance, but he has 5-6 days to change how he has played these talented kids this season. It would surely be a shame if he were not able to do so.
Thanks for reading !!!
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