‘Section 17’ is Crazie-Talk’s weekly feature that lets you, the readers, take a look at what we see from Section 17 of hallowed Cameron Indoor Stadium.
With the burden of final exams finally lifted, the Blue Devils continued their non-conference schedule with a home tune-up against Gardner-Webb followed by a return trip to the Big Apple to face 15th-ranked Gonzaga. After a tough road loss at Wisconsin and a shaky victory over St. John’s at home, the team made a statement with two blowout victories.
On Tuesday, the Blue Devils played host to Gardner-Webb at Cameron. It was pretty loud in there considering classes were not in session. ESPN announcers Mike Patrick and Len Elmore played up Gardner-Webb’s upset of Kentucky at Rupp Arena two years ago. However, there would be no upset as Jon Scheyer’s career game and ridiculously hot shooting ran those Runnin’ Bulldogs right out of the building. The 113-68 victory was the 74th consecutive victory for the Blue Devils over a non-conference opponent at home. The star of the night was Scheyer, who finished with career highs in points (36), assists (9) and three pointers made (7). He also had the highlight of the night when he grabbed on offensive rebound from the top of the key and threw a lefty, behind-the-back pass to Kyle Singler for a layup-and-1.
The “substitute Crazies,” as Mike Patrick called them, let Andre Dawkins know that he had the support of the entire Duke community in his first game following his sister’s tragic passing in a car accident. Dawkins entered to a rousing ovation early in the first half; after his first basket extended the lead to 44-24 with 3:21 to go, the Crazies exploded by chanting his name in unison. It was certainly an emotional moment for the freshman standout, who had a strong game with 16 points, even though 13 of them came in the second half with the victory well in hand.
Following the easy 45-point victory over Gardner-Webb, the Blue Devils had more of a challenge on their hands with 15th-ranked Gonzaga on Saturday in New York City. The challenge was evident in the first 10 minutes, as Duke scored only 8 points in the first 10 minutes. Nolan Smith and Scheyer then ignited an 11-0 run to help the team pull away in the first half. Then the rout was on, as Duke outscored Gonzaga 45-21 in the second half en route to a 76-41 blowout victory.
Several things to take away from Duke’s victory in New York:
- These Blue Devils can sure as hell play defense. We are allowing a stingy 60.2 points per game on defense. We force teams to play at our pace and turn them over; the lone exception was Wisconsin, who dictated the pace of the game and never got flustered, turning the ball over only 4 times. Compare that to Gonzaga, who turned it over 18 times.
- Madison Square Garden really is Cameron Indoor North. There were lots of Duke fans in attendance, even with a snowstorm on the horizon. And Duke does play extremely well in MSG. The team is 6-0 in the last two years in New York City.
- More about defense, specifically the way the team defends in New York. Derek Glasser, Richard Kuksiks, Bol Kong. What do these three names have in common? This season, the Blue Devils have played and won three games in MSG. Those are the only three players to have made a three-point field goal against us in those games. Arizona State, Connecticut and Gonzaga have combined to shoot 3-27 from three against us. If Kong hadn’t made his three in the final 30 seconds, Duke would have played two consecutive games without giving up a single basket from distance. If the team can bring this type of defense for a true road game, it will fare well in the ACC.
- Kyle Singler had a career game on the road at Wisconsin, but struggles in New York. Our All-America candidate is shooting 10-31 with 28 combined points in the three games at the Garden. And yet, we have won all three rather convincingly. However, he scores 28 at the Kohl Center in Madison and we lose? Chalk it up to coincidence, as our loss to Wisconsin can be blamed on the Badgers’ execution and our mediocre defense.
- Jon Scheyer will be first-team All-ACC. Maybe he’ll wear down from playing too many minutes, but he exploded toward the end of the ACC schedule last year. He is averaging 18.2 points (3rd in the ACC) and 5.9 assists per game, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 5.9-to-1 (that’s ridiculous). We really haven’t had a senior leader like him since the days of JJ and Shelden (no disrespect to DeMarcus Nelson).
- Gonzaga is not a top-15 team. They might not even be a top-25 team. They have beaten no ranked teams (although they beat Cincinnati, who is currently ranked). I do not see how they even gave Michigan State a game. Even if Matt Bouldin wasn’t suffering the effects of a concussion, what would the difference against us been? Maybe ten points? How did the voters get them up to 15th? Nonetheless, I still think this victory says more about us than it does about Gonzaga. We showed we can defend and rebound with anybody in the country.
Some final musings as we look toward the year 2010:
- The team has earned a well-deserved break to be with their families during the holiday season, as the schedule will resume after Christmas with a home tilt against Long Beach State on December 29th. The 49ers sure are playing a difficult non-conference schedule that already includes losses to Texas, West Virginia and Clemson. They will most likely get wrecked by No.3 Kentucky on December 23rd before visiting Cameron Indoor. On New Year’s Eve, winless Pennsylvania visits Durham. Really? I would love to play a competitive Ivy League team like Harvard or Cornell.
- Olek Czyz has decided to transfer from the program. He was never going to get playing time either now, or in the future with the recruiting class we have coming in next year, so we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.
Even though I was more impressed with our victory over Connecticut, Duke fans should be happy with the thorough beatdown we handed Gonzaga. They may have not played to their level, but we didn’t exactly light the Garden on fire. I don’t think this game told us anything new, as we might jump West Virginia, who had a close call against Cleveland State. All we did this week was simply take care of business.