Friday, November 11, 2011

Blue Devil's Corner: Quick Takes on Duke's 1 Point Win Over Scrappy Belmont

Mr. Confident all of the sudden

Duke has played Belmont before, and it was a game much like today's.  A scrappy Belmont team took on a talented Duke team and stuck with them and refused to go away.  In the end Belmont had a chance to win, but Duke pulled out a 1 point victory, just like their previous meeting in the 2008 NCAA tournament.  Coach K got his victory #901, 77-76 and Duke has to quickly rebound for a game tomorrow afternoon against Presbyterian.

Quick Takes on Tonight's Game -

- Mason Plumlee played big.

Mason looked aggressive, showed inside moves with his back to the basket.  Played a complete game, passing the ball, making good defensive plays and not making as many of his usual mental mistakes.  Mason's final line of 13 pts, 14 rbs, 6 asts is something all Dukies are hoping to see night in and night out.  Also, don't look at this line and think that Mason was just taking advantage of a small school, Belmont has legit players and an even more legit defensive system. 

- Tyler Thornton could be the leader.

Duke is a team that has had leaders in the past that aren't always the top scoring player on the team.  Thoughts of Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek, Greg Paulus and Wojo all come to mind as players who weren't the most gifted on the team but were the leaders.  Thornton fits this mold, as a defensive minded, smart ball control point guard who isn't going to possibly ever lead the team in scoring in a game, but will lead them in smart and hustle plays.  Tonight Thornton didn't start, but came off the bench and Duke just looked more comfortable with him in the game on both ends of the court.  It will be interesting to monitor how Coach K continues to use Thornton and if K takes a more talented player out of the starting lineup to get Thornton on the court for his intangibles.

- It was a first game for sure.

This was a bit of an ugly game.  Multiple reasons for that though, not only was it the first game for Belmont and Duke but Belmont's style of scrappy, hard pressing defense also brought out the sloppiness.  While it wasn't pretty, it was a good learning lesson for Duke as they got a good fight from a tournament ready team.  Duke looked a bit lost in the final minutes on offense, and this was to be expected after losing Nolan Smith, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer in the past two years.  Hopefully Duke will start to learn who should have the ball at the end of the game, and how to run their offense as best they can to protect leads.  Tonight they got lucky by a great Andre Dawkins' three at the end of the shot clock, obviously Dawkins hitting a three isn't surprising as he is a mid 40% shooter from deep, but that entire possession was ugly and Seth Curry almost travelled while tripping prior to passing it to Dawkins.  In the post game Coach K said, "We grew up a lot tonight."  That will be the biggest take away from this game.

- Austin Rivers will shoot a lot of free throws.

The kid is electric, he seems to have the ball on a string when going through traffic and that allows him to get defenders in bad positions which then leads to the inevitable foul.  In the end he went 8-10 from the line but in the first half when he was more aggressive, he went 7-8.  Rivers attacks the basket with reckless abandon, and as he learns and gets more of a feel for the college level game he will start converting the fouls into more "and one" plays and kicking the ball out to open shooters.  Another thing Rivers will need to learn and something that will be interesting to monitor, is his reactions to fouls called on him.  He repeatedly threw his hands in the air, showing disgust and shock after being called for fouls.  I don't see Coach K allowing this behavior all season, nor should he. 


Good win.  Probably won't be looked at as a good win by casual fans who don't know that Belmont is a serious threat to making a run in the tournament.  I admit, I didn't realize how good they were, but quickly by watching the game you see how well coached this team is.  Some nice bright spots for Duke to take from this game, and definitely some spots that they know they'll need to improve.

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