On the day that a national campaign was launched for Nolan Smith to win the National Player of the Year, Kyle Singler—himself a preseason favorite for that award—decided he wanted some of his own press. Singler had a monster night in Duke’s 78-61 victory over the visiting Temple Owls and reminded Duke fans just how much he loves to get buckets.
On a night that Duke needed to prove it deserved its new top ranking, Kyle delivered, making 10 of his 19 shots in a vintage workman’s performance. The ever-observant Bob Knight pointed out on the broadcast that Kyle was looking to get his shots closer to the basket, as his outside shooting had been cold recently. Singler demonstrated his tremendous basketball IQ on most of his buckets, finding the seams in the Temple D to get easy layups or get past his man. And I haven’t seen anyone in the NCAA who utilizes the shot fake as well as he does, particularly when facing up in the midrange. So pretty.
Of course, Kyle didn’t do it all himself. There was a lot to take away from tonight’s win, which Duke secured by outscoring the Owls 47-37 in the second half. Here are some thoughts and observations about what this late season test will mean going forward.
- Tyler Thornton is something of a secret weapon. When the Duke offense was sputtering in the opening half, TT added an unexpected spark, picking up 6 points on two pretty drives and two free throws. He hounded Temple star Juan Fernandez all night, picking up four fouls but helping hold Fernandez to just 8 points. One benefit of Irving’s absence is the tremendous experience Tyler has gotten in his stead. With or without Kyrie, our postseason chances have improved with Tyler’s steady play since January.
- Is Andre “Young Threezy” Dawkins back? Dre has been obscured in Seth Curry’s growing shadow over the past 5 games, in which he’s scored a paltry 9 combined points. K seems understandably wary to give him big minutes, and Dre only played 7 tonight. But he capitalized on his opportunities, knocking down two threes—including a NBA ranger in the final minutes. Our partner-in-blogosphere Seth Curry Saves Duke! has been critical of Dre’s lack of oomph over the past month, and for good reason. He has plenty of talent, and let’s hope he builds off of this encouraging performance moving forward.
- Mason Plumlee shook off a rough first 10 minutes to post a 6 point and 13 rebound line. We could argue that any points that Mason scores is a bonus. His post game is still underdeveloped, but he works hard on the glass and usually knows how to finish open looks. He’s also become a Zoubek-esque vacuum on the glass, averaging just under 9 caroms on the year. On ESPN the other day, Doug Gottlieb wisely pointed out how important Mason’s contributions are going forward. He’s our only true center and will draw some tough defensive assignments in the Big Dance. He will need to be fierce.
- Meanwhile, Miles Plumlee is still on the lam. I heard he was spotted in the Yukon Territory over the weekend. We’ll keep you posted.
- Curry and Kelly are our acting third and fourth options on offense these days. Kelly displayed some nice post moves en route to a 8 point, 7 rebound night, while Curry drilled 3 triples. Nolan and Kyle rightfully take the lion’s share of our shots, but it’s good to see White Delight and Seth make the most of their looks.
- Hey, we shot 16-17 from the line!
- Hats off to Temple for a gritty first half, but their depleted roster really showed in the second period. Lavoy Allen, who played with Singler and Smith on the USA Select Team this summer, was a beast in the paint. Apparently he’s Temple’s all-time leading rebounder, and he picked up 13 to go with 17 points in a hostile Cameron environment. And Fran Dunphy can really coach, as evidenced by their excellent offensive efficiency in the first half. I wouldn’t want to see these guys in the Dance, especially if Fernandez wakes up and learns how to shoot again.
Now that the dust has settled, Duke is 26-2, and we look ready for the grueling final stretch. Senior night against Clemson is sandwiched between two road tests at Virginia Tech and UNC. If Duke and the Heels win out, the final matchup could determine whether we have to share the ACC crown. Bring it on. As Geico reminds us, it takes two to tango.
Let’s Go Duke.