Committee Effort: The search for the illusive third scoring option continues, and while no one player has yet to step up as the consistent option, on Sunday night the job was undertaken by a group of Blue Devils, led by seniors Sean Dockery and Lee Melchionni who combined for 32 points. Starting power forward Josh McRoberts contributed eight points to round out the big scoring contributions.
With sophomore DeMarcus Nelson still sidelined, the Blue Devils continue to develop different offensive weapons and are averaging 100 points per game over their last two contests against the No. 2 team in the country and a likely conference champion. While much of Duke's offense is still reliant on Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick, the emergence of other potential scoring threats is important as the ACC has three years of scouting reports and trial and error results on how to slow down the two All-Americans.
As good and Williams and Redick have been and will continue to be, Duke simply has to get increasingly consistent performances from another scoring threat, if not two or three.
Distribution Center: When he committed to Duke, many Blue Devil fans were excited to finally have a great passing point guard on the roster. Just ten games into his freshman season, Greg Paulus dropped a record 15 assists against just three turnovers in 29 minutes played. As a team Duke logged assists on 21 of 34 made baskets (62%) which was a result of improved offensive spacing and movement, as well as having a point guard who has very good floor vision.
It's not a coincidence that Duke has logged assists on 55% of their made baskets over those last two contests in which they are averaging more than 100 points per contest. Against the Crusaders Duke scored 20 points in four and eight possessions to start the game.
Continued Charitable Donations: As they did against Texas, Duke shot very well at the free throw line on Sunday night, hitting 28-of-36 attempts. After so many years of seeing critical free throws bounce off the rim, it's somewhat reassuring to know that several players have worked to improve their prowess at the line. Of course Redick did miss two free throws for the second time this season.
What Went Wrong:
uke…still: Once again the Blue Devils didn't suffer from a lack of effort, just execution on the defensive end on the floor where Valpo converted 49% of their attempts on the evening including several wide open jumpers, and uncontested lay-ups. Had the Crusaders been able to convert more frequently from the outside, it could have been a one or two possession game at the half. After what was assuredly a spirited halftime speech from Coach K, Duke played better defensively in the second half, but still short of their self imposed expectations. While it's good to see Duke able to out-score opponents with a more efficient offense, you have to think Coach K would like to see his team able to stop opponents on the defensive end of the floor as well.
Playing to the Level: Of their competition. While it wasn't as pronounced against Valpo as it had been against notable opponents such as Penn, Boston U, and Drexel, Duke still managed to struggle with the intensity level shown against Texas. Coming off exam week cuts some slack, and the effort was there. Perhaps this was just more of an execution problem than anything else.
The Short Bench: It's clear that the Blue Devils don't feel completely comfortable inserting either Jamal Boykin or Eric Boateng into the regular rotation at this point in their careers. As they continue to learn the system and what is expected of them (especially on the defensive end and on the boards) in practice there's a chance that both could steal minutes here and there. In the meantime you have to hope Shelden Williams and Josh McRoberts prove capable of staying on the floor and away from foul trouble. Otherwise Duke has no answer for big bodies inside.
Watching Redick: While he's certainly the best scorer in the ACC, if not all of college basketball. There were a number of times when the auxiliary players would stand and watch Redick when he got the ball and, usually, fired away. Usually these were freshmen, but the sense their body language gave off was that passing to No. 4 meant they were finished with the possession. Recently Redick's been hitting more than he's missed. However, if he stops hitting those shots, Duke has no one helping Williams inside for second change points. Not to mention anyone else with the confidence to assert themselves on the offensive end.
Player of the Game:
While it's hard to discount another 30 point performance from Redick, our pick for player of the game honors is freshman Greg Paulus, who set a freshman assist record with 15. The value of a true pass first point guard to this team is immeasurable, especially when remembering last year's stagnant offense and lack of ball movement. For his efforts, Paulus is our TDD Player of the Game.
Duke returns to action Wednesday night against St. John's in Cameron. The Red Storm have proven the ability to play Duke tough no matter the make up of the two rosters, and this season will likely prove to be more of the same. Look for Coach K to really read his team the riot act about their defensive performance on Sunday and for a marked change to be made in that department.