Wow. It’s been quite a week in Durham, North Carolina. The Cameron Crazies returned to see two emphatic victories over two conference foes that showcased just about everything that this Duke squad can do.
Classes resumed on Wednesday, and students came back just in time for a primetime clash with Boston College. After a seesaw first half that ended with Duke holding a three point lead, the Devils came out firing in the second half with a scintillating array of steals, layups, alleys, and oops that left erstwhile-Devil Gerald Henderson (sporting a Kanye West Mohawk) impressed with his old team.
From the heart of Section 17, the atmosphere against Wake Forest was the best it’s been all season. With no classes today, the Crazies were out in full force in anticipation of a battle that could match the intensity of last year’s 101-91 victory in Durham. Once again, the first half was a back and forth affair, with the refs very much in control of the game. Wake was in the double bonus at the 10:44 mark in the first half, although Duke would earn the right to shoot two after every foul shortly after. In the second half, Wake sprinted out of the gates to tie the game at 55. But the Devils would finish on a 35-15 run as Duke simply played the Deacons off the floor by beating them in every aspect of the game.
In both games, Duke combined to shoot 5-25 from three point land. For a Duke team, that’s simply absurd. Jon Scheyer had relatively quiet nights in both games (12 points, 4 assists against BC, 9 points, 6 assists against Wake) against defenses focusing specifically on him. So, how exactly did we average 84.5 points and win both games by a 20 point margin?
A New Shampoo
On Wednesday morning, many a Duke student opened The Chronicle’s sports section to see the headline: “It’s Time to Bench Singler”. Citing Singler’s poor play in the road loss to Georgia Tech, the author asserted that Singler should be “benched” for a few games. Naturally, it was met with ridicule by students, fans on message boards, and Coach K himself. He had a few choice words for the author, who rest assured won’t be writing too many inflammatory editorials anytime soon.
But let’s get back to Shampoo. Remember the guy who was named a Preseason First-Team All American, touted to be the frontrunner for ACC Player of the Year, and a candidate for National Player of the Year? Yeah, he’s back. And he’s a warrior. He put together what Coach K called a ‘hell of a game’ with 14 points and 10 rebounds on Wednesday against BC, and followed it up with his best overall performance of the season against Wake with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Instead of settling for his jump shot, he returned to the slashing post game that made him so deadly for the past two years. In the second half against Wake, Kyle was fouled hard going up to the basket and fell straight to the ground, landing on his wrist. Instead of taking a moment to recover, he bounced up off the floor, jogged around half court, faced the Crazies, and screamed, “LET’S GO!”
Cameron erupted. I lost my voice in the process. In that moment, he showed everyone in the country that despite the shooting struggles, transition to a new position, and criticism from the media and school newspaper alike, Kyle Singler is still an absolute beast. Always has been, always will be.
Ripe Plum Trees
These two are just flat-out amazing. Miles put together his best performance in a Duke uniform to date on Wednesday, only to register career highs in minutes (32), points (19), and rebounds (15) three days later. Mason came off his best game as a Devil against Georgia Tech only to one-up himself on Sunday as well, finishing with 11 points and 7 rebounds against an extremely physical Wake Forest frontcourt.
When Earth, Wind, and Scheyer (pardon my arts and crafts skills) can’t get their jumpshots to fall, the brothers Plumlee add a completely new dimension to Duke’s offense with their ability to dominate the offensive glass and dunk with authority. The incredible improvement that the Plumlees have had in just the past few weeks, coupled with vastly improved play from Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas truly give Duke a formidable and deep frontcourt that will compete with the best of them.
It’s been a while since Duke could boast two legitimate post threats, each with a swagger reminiscent of a young Christian Laettner. Both Mason and Miles are walking highlight reels, and both had their fair share of “Oh, baby!” moments on Sunday night. Miles had a ridiculous number of offensive boards and put-back dunks, while Mason showcased his fancy footwork and athletic ability as he aggressively attacked the basket, capped off by his absolutely ridiculous reverse jam off of an offensive rebound. The two brothers bring a fresh mean streak to this team, taking the court with full intentions of dominating anyone standing in their way.
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While we can revel in victory now, this team will be facing a tall task in the next few weeks. This year, the ACC will be won on the road, where Duke has yet to register a win. But this team is as talented, experienced, and balanced as Duke has had in the past five years. They will most certainly be making some noise come March. For Crazies everywhere, that success will sound like sweet, sweet thunder.