What Went Right:
It’s Better To Be Lucky…than good says the old adage. While that may or may not be so, it proved to be true on Sunday night as Duke escaped on a halfcourt prayer. Perhaps there is something to be said for the Blue Devils putting themselves in a position for Dockery’s shot to produce the win, but that’s a dangerous line of thinking since it was precisely what Duke didn’t do that put them in that situation. Still, Duke kept plugging away despite the horrendous shooting night from J.J. Redick, while Virginia Tech played hard for 39:58, but took one final play off. It cost them.
That Wasn’t The Only Big Shot that Sean Dockery hit on the night. While people will certainly remember the last one, it was his shooting before the final play that earns him high marks. With Redick struggling to hit anything from the field, Dockery stepped up and scored a season best 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting including four of five from the perimeter. Gone was his hesitation before shooting. For the final half, Dockery just caught and shot. The result was that third scoring presence outside of Shelden Williams and Redick that Duke so desperately needed, and will continue to need.
Big Man In The Paint: Though yet another big man had a big night against Duke, Williams’ play was the catalyst that kept the Blue Devils in the game when it seemed as though nothing else was going right. Williams hauled in a career best 19 rebounds, many in a crowd of as many as three of four Hokies, while scoring 21 points to pace Duke. And not all of his points were inside. In fact Williams showed off a soft shooting touch out to 16 feet, knocking down three different jumpers from that length. He also added five blocks.
Free Throw Shooting: The shooting from the charity stripe was much better than it has been in years past as Duke shot 17-of-21 from the line, including 11-of-12 in the first half. Of course it would have been helpful to have hit those final shots with a one point lead, but that would have taken away some of the drama – not to mention spared many grey hairs.
What Went Wrong
The Name is _uke: One thing has become crystal clear in the absence of wing guard DeMarcus Nelson: This Duke team simply cannot play the kind of perimeter defense it has in the past. For the third consecutive game an opponent was able to easily and routinely get into the lane for easy buckets. Throughout the game several fans wondered aloud why on earth the Hokies even tried to take jump shots when the could get to the basket on a whim.
With no semblance of perimeter pressure or the ability to stop the ball, teams with quick guards break down the defense and force the help to come from Williams. This leads to either a quick shot (for which the opponents usually have a first string rebounder waiting) or a quick dump off for a lay-up. Either way it’s like Williams is defending two and three players at one time inside. At the end of the day the clear fact is that this version of the Blue Devils simply does not have the capacity to play suffocating defense for long periods of time, especially in a full court situation. Going forward the coaching staff will have to find away to play to this team’s strengths, which will likely mean some gimmick defenses as well as a more potent offensive attack, as Duke can’t hold teams down as much as they’d like, and will need to outscore opponents here and there.
Help Wanted: It has to come from freshman power forward Josh McRoberts. While he’s shown flashes of brilliance over the first seven games it appears as though the freshman is having trouble adjusting to players who are just as strong as he is. Unlike his predecessors, McRoberts has shown the kind of nasty streak he’ll need to be successful, but still seems unsure of how to correlate everything into a complete game. Offensively he needs to be more aggressive and demand the ball. On the glass he needs to board harder on both sides of the ball.
Another candidate to help is Martynas Pocius, who has shown the ability to be an instant scoring threat off the bench. Pocius’ problem has been getting lost on the defensive side of the ball, something that he will have to correct before head coach Mike Krzyzewski awards him more and more time. However, with a lack of perimeter speed and slashing ability, Pocius could be just what the doctor ordered – especially with Nelson out until after the New Year.
Should Pocius and McRoberts be able to step up their games, and Duke can push Eric Boateng and Jamal Boykin into a few combined minutes of help in the paint, some of the concerns will be alleviated. However, judging from the looks of things just seven games in…those are some huge, huge question marks.
Player of the Game:
When you hit a game winner from half court there’s not too much anyone can do to take away being the Player of the Game. Thus, Sean Dockery is our TDD Player of the Game.
There’s no time to congratulate or feel good about the miracle win on Sunday as Duke returns to the court this week to host a Penn team that has already proven to be capable of beating quality teams – beating Drexel 68-60 last week. It’s a safe bet that the coaching staff spent the night in the basketball office going over tape of Sunday’s game and will no doubt put the team through an intense Monday practice session.
Wednesday’s game will serve as a tune-up for Saturday’s big match up with No. 2 Texas in Madison Square Garden. Given their performance against he Hokies, you can bet that Duke won’t be looking past the Quakers, but will need to use that game to prepare for the Longhorns, who are long, athletic, and very fast.