After watching his team struggle through most of the opening round against Boston University on the offensive end, head coach Mike Krzyzewski went to work motivating his team. Despite winning by 17, Coach K said the team treated their preparation for the Seton Hall as if they were coming off a loss – meaning rough practices dripping with high intensity. If that wasn't enough, Krzyzewski juggled his starting lineup, sitting sophomore DeMarcus Nelson and senior Lee Melchionni at the start of Wednesday's game.
The end result of all this was a Duke team that was ready to go from the opening tip, and one that didn't stop until the final buzzer sounded. By the time that welcomed sound arrived for the Pirates, the Blue Devils had out-rebounded, out-hustled, and out-classed Seton Hall to the tune of a 53 point victory. And it could have been worse had Duke not begun to run the clock with a little over eight minutes remaining.
The player who responded the most to being benched had to be Nelson, who scored 16 points and didn't miss a shot the entire night (6-of-6 from the field, 2-of-2 from the free throw line). After being routinely stripped of the ball against Boston, Krzyzewski challenged his sophomore scoring guard to be more assertive and stronger in the lane. Shortly after checking in, Nelson did just that – elevating over a Seton Hall defender to throw down a one-handed jam off a Sean Dockery alley-oop.
Aside from Nelson's 16 and the usual 18 from J.J. Redick, Duke's attack was surprisingly balanced as nine players earned double figure minutes, and nine players scored six or more points. Only freshman Greg Paulus reached double figures with his two upperclassman teammates with 12 points. It should also be noted that this balanced attack allowed Duke to take a 30 point halftime advantage on the Hall without a single point from Shelden Williams.
Overall it was great to see Duke begin developing a bench (with Boateng, Boykin, and Pocius all playing well), while seeing the team distribute the ball in a much improved manner. If the offense continues to click like this, Duke has the potential to become much more dangerous than the teams of the last few seasons.
While the offense finally seemed to click, it was the defense that fueled Duke's early 34-3 run. On the night the Blue Devils forced 17 turnovers, which translated into 19 fast break points. Duke also out-rebounded the Pirates by a 41-27 margin while holding them to just 13% shooting from the field in the opening half and 39% in the second – 24% overall for the night.
What Went Wrong:
Very little, but there were some small points of concern beginning at the free throw line where Duke clanked its first four attempts, going 5-of-9 before intermission. Sure the game was out of reach, but free throws have bitten this team in the past, so it was a step in the right direction to see the Devils knock down eight of ten attempts after halftime. In particular, Josh McRoberts appears to need continued work at the line where he's shooting a horrendous 29% on the season (2-of-7).
Player of the Game
After being taken out of the starting line up despite logging a career high seven steals against Boston, sophomore DeMarcus Nelson could have packed it in. Instead the 6-foot-3 sophomore played his best overall game as a Blue Devil, scoring 16 points while not missing a single shot all night. Then there was the matter of his highlight dunk. For his efforts, Nelson is our TDD Player of the Game.
Duke will take some time away from the NIT to host Davidson on Saturday night in Cameron. As has been the case in previous seasons the Wildcats are expected to be well coached and unimpressed with the Blue Devils' preseason results and accolades. Over the past few years Bob McKilliop's teams have given Duke tough games, and expecting to run all over them is a mistake – something Coach K will no doubt stress to his younger players who may be overly happy with themselves after such a landslide victory.