The first half was perhaps the best basketball this team has played all season long. Duke looked sharp on defense and was working the ball inside to Shelden Williams and Shavlik Randolph thanks to a number of good looks from Chris Duhon. Once the inside scoring was established, the perimeter began to open up and Duke was able to look like Duke.
Overall the duo of Williams and Randolph played as well as they have all season long. Williams finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocks while Shavlik finished with seven points, and two rebounds. Both scored inside exclusively and earned trips to the line where they, unfortunately, shot a dismal two of five.
Defensively Duke was sharp before wearing down late in the game. During the first 33 minutes of game, the Devils forced six steals and blocked a season high 11 shots.
What went wrong?
The shooting was once again very bad – 27-of-71 bad. That's 38 percent from the floor, which won't win too many games. While Purdue's defense was very good down the stretch and fatigue certainly played a part, there were some questionable shots taken throughout the game. It also seemed to take the team a while to realize the perimeter shot was just not going to be there which led to a 5-of-22 (22.7%) performance from the perimeter.
After three games in three days, all of them late, the Devils were simply run down and had no legs to run with down the stretch. It showed in the numerous jump shots that drew the front of the rim, and the ease with which the Purdue players were able to get to the basket and clean up the rebounds on both ends of the floor.
Heading down the stretch Duke looked tired and unable to keep up with the Boilermakers. Both J.J. Redick and Luol Deng looked particularly winded which is understandable since both were targeted all night by the Purdue defense. Towards the end of the game Redick actually committed three turnovers that could be classified as unforced errors including two instances of simply having the ball going through his hands.
When this happens in the future, and teams are no longer unaware of Redick's ability to beat them from the perimeter, Duke needs to adjust their offense and that hasn't happened yet for a full game. In other words some one else needs to stand up and force the defense to collapse – perhaps feeding the ball to the post will help in this respect.
Player(s) of the Game
Shelden Williams gave Duke a legitimate low post scoring threat and hit the boards extremely hard all night long. The Landlord finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocks on the night, which was arguably the best stat line of the night.
In addition to Williams, senior Chris Duhon put together his best three game performance in a long, long time. Duhon hit for eight points, seven rebounds, and 10 assists and directed the offense very well at times. For their efforts Duhon and Williams are our TDD Players of the Game.
Things don't get any easier for the Blue Devils heading up to Michigan State to face the Spartans at the Breslin Center. Like the Devils, MSU has a ton of talent on the roster, but is struggling to find continuity on the offensive end of the floor. They are also hurting from the loss of Erazim Lorbek to Europe has left the Spartan interior vulnerable if attacked. On the wing MSU has a pair of athletic guards who excel at taking their man off the dribble. If Duke doesn't have good defensive rotation it could be trouble.
As Coach K has said numerous times, the season is a marathon and not a sprint. While an early season loss is always painful, it can serve as a wake up call to the players. With the schedule that Duke has coming up, the Blue Devils really are in need of something that gets everyone on the same page, which is imperative with such a young team.