Section 17: Next Play

For the first time in my four years at Duke, I saw my Blue Devils fall in the hallowed halls of Cameron Indoor Stadium. I’ve been lucky enough to see some incredible games in Cameron during this amazing 45 game win streak (and lucky enough to miss the loss against Carolina in ’09), but this was a tough one to take in. FSU played a brilliant second half, punctuated by the three at the buzzer that silenced the stadium.

This one hurt. (Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

In a game that pitted a defensive stalwart against an offensive juggernaut, Duke failed to execute on both sides of the ball. FSU scored on seven of their final eight possessions – including the wide open three pointer from Michael Snaer at the buzzer – while Duke failed to capitalize on key opportunities and make free throws. We can talk about the refs – who had an incredibly absurd stretch of calls and no-calls that admittedly went in Florida State’s favor. We can talk about Austin Rivers’ amazing three pointer that apparently hit the wire that held up the basket – or the ridiculous banked three pointer that cut FSU’s deficit down to six at the end of the first half. We can talk about Florida State shooting 54% in Cameron, with a 50% cut (10-20) from three point land (Xavier Gibson and Okaro White made their first and fourth three pointers of the entire season tonight). But in the end, none of that matters. As much as it hurts to write, we flat out lost tonight because we didn’t bring it for all 40 minutes of the game.

At times, especially in the first half, we looked very, very good. At halftime, it seemed as if Florida State was very lucky to be within six. But FSU came storming out of the gate, erasing the lead in less that five minutes while taking advantage of a truly lackadaisical effort from Duke on the defensive end. The veteran Seminoles made the appropriate adjustments by forcing the ball inside and getting both Mason and Ryan in foul trouble. Of course, Ryan went on an 8-0 run by himself and Dre continued to hit big shots, but when Duke needed to get stops, FSU was able to score with ease. Down the stretch, poor shot selection and failure to make free throws made the difference.

The game of basketball, just like any other sport, is won by the team what exploits their strength while targeting their opponent’s weaknesses. Florida State was able to do that, time and time again, against this Duke team. And while it might hurt like hell for us fans to watch our guys go down on a buzzer beater at home, this game will pay large dividends moving forward.

Last week against Virginia, we learned that this team could really fight. Tonight, our boys fought and fought hard – but came up short. Obviously, defense – both on the perimeter and inside – remains an issue, but this season is not over. These guys have continued to learn and progress every single day, and this game is only going to help that cause.

Yes, Duke lost in Cameron, and it hurts. But we will look back, learn from our mistakes, and move on to the next play.

As always, go Duke.

Wake Forest: What to Watch For

After a four day layoff following their victory over Clemson on Sunday, Duke is back in action this evening as they square off with Wake Forest at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils remain the only undefeated team in the ACC, and look to push their record in conference play to 4-0 with a victory over the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest is 1-2 in ACC play this season, with their lone win coming in an upset of Virginia Tech. The Demon Deacons then lost two close battles to Maryland and North Carolina State. This matchup should not prove to be a particularly close one, but we know that anything can happen in conference play, so let’s take a look at Duke’s three keys to the game:

1. The First Eight Minutes
Though they have come away with three tough wins in their first matchups in conference play, Duke has not made it easy on themselves. The Blue Devils controlled the game’s opening minutes against Georgia Tech only to surrender a large run to end the first half and make the game close. They struggled to do so in their matchups with Virginia and Clemson, allowing both teams to take leads in the early going, forcing Duke to fight an uphill battle for the remainder of the first half. Though they were able to tough it out and seize control of the game later on, this is certainly not a habit they want to get into.

Duke should plan to look for Miles Plumlee early against Wake (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

2. Go Inside Early And Often
If Duke is going to jump out to an early lead against Wake Forest, they’ll need to think long and hard about how they approach the beginning of games. Although the Blue Devils have typically relied on outside shooting to put teams away, they have struggled from deep as of late, shooting just 29.2% from beyond the arc in their past three wins. This is one of the reasons why Duke has fallen behind early in its last couple of contests- they start the game taking difficult shots that are not falling and quickly fall behind. The Blue Devils have been saved in conference play by the Plumlee brothers, who have continually asserted themselves as forces on the inside. Mason has been a go-to guy for the offense all season, and Miles has been coming on strong the past few games, so why not feed them the ball in the games opening minutes and let them get some easy points? This will allow Duke’s guard to get into the flow of the game before they start shooting long-range shots. Attacking the inside early will open up the perimeter for their shooters to knock down shots later in the game for a knockout blow.

3. Make Someone Other Than C.J. Harris or Travis McKie Beat You
Wake Forest is not a very good team. They’re not a very deep team, either. But they do have two of the top scoring threats in the ACC, and will rely on them heavily throughout the game. Junior C.J. Harris and sophomore Travis McKie average 17.3 and 17.1 points per game for the Demon Deacons, respectively. Both of them are capable of knocking down shots from anywhere on the floor. McKie, in particular, presents the most difficult defensive matchup for Duke. At 6-foot-7, he is a bit too big to be marked easily by Austin Rivers or Andre Dawkins, but may propose issues for one of the Plumlee brothers with his speed. If Duke can shut down both of these players, Wake Forest won’t have anyone else to turn to. Only seven players on the Demon Deacons roster average more than 11.1 minutes per game. They won’t go more than eight or nine deep very often, and this team is simply not talented enough to beat you if both of these players are not on their game.

Any conference game at Cameron is a good game, so tonight should be a lot of fun. Stay Crazie, my friends, and as always, go Duke!

Math 9314: Into the Trenches

Two hard-fought conference victories later, Duke sits atop the ACC as the only undefeated team. Despite trailing throughout the first half against both Virginia and Clemson, the Blue Devils were able to rally and overcome the adversity they faced. As Duke continues to grind out close victories and its top non-conference foes continue to win and rise in the rankings, the Blue Devils’ strength of schedule this year continues to look even more remarkable. Let’s take a look back at Duke’s past two victories using our motion chart and advanced metrics and see what the box scores from these games did not tell you:

Mason put his running hook to the test against Virginia (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Duke was able to eek out a close win against Virginia, but its safe to say that they were letting the Cavaliers play their game. Virginia slowed down the tempo of the game and kept the pace steady in half-court sets, and it showed for Duke statistically. The Blue Devils’ 61 points accounted for Duke’s lowest scoring output of the year, and it was just the first time all year they had won a game when scoring fewer than 68 points. The highest GameScore for Duke against Virginia was a mere 8.6 for Mason Plumlee, who shot an efficient 5-of-6 from the field but left quite a few points at the foul line, shooting just 2-for-10 on the game. With 12 points, Plumlee was Duke’s leading scorer, accounting for the lowest point total for Duke’s leading scorer since Tom Emma and Vince Taylor led the way with 12 apiece in a Duke loss to Maryland on January 9, 1982 in Mike Krzyzewski’s second year as the Blue Devils’ head coach. The final score of the game was 40-36. Duke scored 10 points in the second half. However, Duke’s consistency showed through against Virginia, with four players scoring in double figures the GameScores were reasonably consistent. Six of the eight Duke players that saw the floor against Virginia had GameScores between 5.1 and 8.6. It wasn’t pretty, but it was definitely a team effort out there.

You'd probably find this picture in the dictionary under "swag". (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Although it took a little time to get started up, Duke returned to its usual form in a 73-66 win over Clemson. Andre Dawkins led the way for the Blue Devils with 24 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 5-for-9 from behind the arc. With a tremendous GameScore of 20.0, this was the first time Dawkins had scored above 6.9 in a game in nearly a full month. The last time he accomplished that was in Duke’s win over UNC-Greensboro on December 19. But while Dawkins success was quite visible through his scoring output, some might argue that he was nearly overshadowed by the play of Miles Plumlee. Miles scored just six points, but pulled down 14 rebounds, six of them on the offensive end, in just 23 minutes. This accounted for an Oreb% of 29.81%, which statistically speaking is practically off the charts. As he continues to come on strong in the midst of his senior year, Miles can’t help but remind us of another Duke player from not too long ago. And in case you don’t remember, things turned out quite wellfor that team. Meanwhile, against Clemson Mason Plumlee played his usual Mason Plumlee game, scoring 12 points and adding seven rebounds on just an 18.55% Usage%. Mason’s performance was good for a GameScore of 9.8 as he continues to show consistency on the offensive end.

Can you say "dunk face"? (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

What We Learned:
Andre Dawkins is back in an upswing-After struggling for most of December and the beginning of January to the point where he often looked invisible on the floor, Dawkins is beginning to find his form again. After playing what Coach K called “his best defensive performance of the season” against Virginia, Dre exploded against Clemson in one of those classic “Andre Dawkins can’t miss a shot” games. Dawkins is playing some of the quality basketball we saw from him in the early part of the season, and at this point we just hope he can keep it up. He has the potential to be one of the greatest weapons in the ACC off the bench.

This team continues to fade in and out, but at some point it just has to click- It seems as though every player on this team has gone through its fair share of ups and downs this season with the exception of Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. Though that is not ideal, it is good to see who is stepping up at this point in the season. The beginning of the season was all about Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly and then Austin Rivers began to take over in December, but now with Seth and Austin struggling Miles Plumlee, Quinn Cook, and Andre Dawkins are picking up their slack. You have to think that sometime soon Rivers and Curry will get back on top of their games, and if everyone else can continue to produce this team has the potential to be very scary down the stretch.

Section 17: Punching Back

Duke won a hard-fought battle in Littlejohn Coliseum on Sunday, defeating Clemson 73-66 to remain the lone unbeaten team in ACC play.

Andre had no trouble dominating in Littlejohn Coliseum. (Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

Clemson started the game off with a quick 6-0 run that might have led many a Duke fan to flashback to February 4th, 2009, when Clemson beat the living daylights out of Duke in the very same building. The quick start from Clemson led Coach K to pull a wholesale five-for-five substitution – something he’s rarely ever done – to jump start the squad. The Devils punched back with a 15-2 run of their own. Andre Dawkins then proceeded to proverbially “make it rain”, draining five three pointers  and throwing down a monstrous dunk for good measure.

Duke nursed a four point lead at the break and played much of the second half with a decent lead, but Clemson simply did not go away. The Tigers closed the gap to four on a K.J McDaniels jumper to make it 65-61, but Dawkins drilled a three-pointer on the next possession to put the game, as Chick Hearn would say, in the refrigerator.

A few more thoughts on the game, in bullet form:

  • Coming off of a great win at home against a strong Virginia team, Duke could have laid an egg (like, ahem, some other squad) on the road this weekend. It was great to see this young team walk into what could have been a bear trap, take a few punches, and fight right back.
  • Andre stepped up with his best performance since the win against Michigan State. And this game followed what Coach K called the “best defensive game of his career” against Virginia. The biggest issue to date with Andre has been consistency – on both ends of the floor. If Dre can provide offensive firepower and play good quality defensive minutes off the bench night in and night out – this team will improve that much more.
  • Speaking of consistency: Austin Rivers has struggled to score consistently during the past few games. Rivers scored a season-low four points on 2-7 shooting. Some of his recent struggles can be attributed to the fact that he has been matched up with taller players on the opposing team, but for the most part, Rivers has simply not shot the ball well. In five games so far in 2012, Rivers has shot a combined 16-44 from the floor – good for 36.3%. Let’s hope he can break out of his shooting slump sooner rather than later.
  • It’s a shame that none of our three stud shooting guards – Curry, Rivers, and Dawkins – have been “on” on the same night thus far. All it takes is for two of the three to be on the same page – and Duke becomes nearly unstoppable. Taking it the opposite way – if only one, or worse, none of them are shooting well, Duke is in deep trouble. The Temple and Ohio State losses are cases in point.
  • Miles Plumlee had a great game on Sunday – and continues to contribute in a really positive way for this team. He collected 14 boards on Sunday night, six on the offensive end. Although he was responsible for four turnovers, it’s encouraging to see Miles make a concerted effort to get on the glass and extend possessions on offense.
  • Speaking of Plumlees – Mason had another solid game, posting up 12 points and 7 boards. But most importantly – Mason went 4-4 from the free throw line. Let’s repeat that, shall we? Mason went 4-4 from the free throw line. That means he didn’t miss. He’s made his last nine free throws (!!!!) on the road, while making only four of his last fifteen in Cameron. Maybe it’s our fault?
  • Quinn Cook (#nohim) was great in his third consecutive start, registering 10 points and 2 assists and showing a lot of promise.
  • Karl Hess is a clown. The flagrant called on Miles was just ridiculous. There’s really not much you can say – especially after watching the replay.
  • Marshall Plumlee’s interview skills continue to impress. It was hard to imagine anyone taking the DBP spotlight away from the one and only Nolan Smith, but Marshall has quietly become one of the best DBP video hosts – ever. Check out his latest offering below, with quotes from Miles and Dre on their great performances last night. 
That’s all we’ve got for now. Check back with us for more stuff later on this week, including a look ahead to Thursday’s matchup with Wake Forest. Go Duke, and #GTHC.


Around the ACC: Week 2

ACC action is now in full swing, and we just capped off the first full week of exciting games. We’ll be examining Duke’s victory over Clemson later today, but for now let’s look into the best games in the past week of ACC action.

January 10- Florida State @ Virginia Tech
Florida State 63, Virginia Tech 59
The Hokies dropped their second straight conference game with a 63-59 loss at home against Florida State. Bernard James led the way for the Seminoles with 18 points and 15 rebounds while Ian Miller added 15 points of his own off the bench. Erick Green carried the load for Virginia Tech, scoring a game-high 21 points but shooting just 5-of-14 from the floor. The Hokies were able to rally from a nine-point halftime deficit, but were ultimately doomed by their poor shooting. Virginia Tech shot just 30.5% from the field on the game. With the score at 61-59 with 17.8 seconds to play, the Hokies had a chance to tie the game, but Green was unable to convert. Two Florida State free throws sealed the victory, rebounding from a crushing 79-59 loss on the road to Clemson to open their ACC schedule.

January 11- Wake Forest @ Maryland
Maryland 70, Wake Forest 64
The Terrapins jumped out to an early lead, going into the half up 40-24, but Wake Forest was able to make a game of it in the second half. Guard Terrell Stoglin, who is the ACC’s leading scorer, came off the bench for just the second time this year and led Maryland with 20 points. However, these points came at a cost, as he shot just 6-of-18 from the field on the night. Travis McKie led the way for the Demon Deacons, tying a career-high 25 points. Wake Forest was able to pull within six at 60-54 with 5:35 remaining in the game, but could not get the deficit to any less than four in the game’s final moments as the Terps escaped with a win.

Mason Plumlee added this electrifying jam to this season's highlight reel against Virginia (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet)

January 12- Virginia @ Duke
Duke 61, Virginia 58
Despite a slow start and a late Virginia surge, Duke utilized a balanced scoring effort to knock of the 16th-ranked Cavaliers by a score of 61-58. Mason Plumlee was the Blue Devils’ top scorer with just 12 points, as Duke had four players in double figures on the game. After falling behind early, Duke was able to rally back and take a four-point lead into the half. Virginia controlled the pace throughout the game, employing its typical slow and steady half-court sets. The Blue Devils came out firing in the second half, expanding their lead to 53-42 with just under 10 minutes to play. Virginia hung around, as Mike Scott led all scorers with 23 points and added nine rebounds. Scott was significantly less effective in the second half than he was in the game’s opening minutes, scoring just seven points after halftime. Duke shot 52.2% from the floor on the game against the toughest defense in the ACC. Meanwhile they held Virginia to just 39.3% shooting from the field. Although Duke led throughout the second half, the Cavaliers were able to pull within three in the game’s waning moments and actually had multiple chances to tie the game, but could not convert on their long-range shots. The loss snapped Virginia’s previous 12-game winning streak.

January 12- Clemson @ Boston College
Boston College 59, Clemson 57
Many thought that Boston College wouldn’t win a game in ACC play this season. They proved the critics wrong in just their second ACC contest, winning a hard-fought home game 59-57 over Clemson. The Eagles were able to pull off the upset despite turning the ball over 15 times and getting out-rebounded by the Tigers 32-21 for the game. Dennis Clifford scored a game-high 15 points for Boston College. Guard Lonnie Jackson added 14 points of his own for the Eagles while Andre Young led Clemson with 12. The game was tight throughout, with both sides jockeying for position through the second half. Clifford broke the 56-56 tie when he nailed a jumper with 42 seconds remaining. Milton Jennings had a chance to tie the game from the free throw line for Clemson with just 8.7 seconds remaining, but he missed one of his two free throws and the Tigers did not earn another chance.

January 14- North Carolina @ Florida State
Florida State 90, North Carolina 57
We wrote a little bit on this game here immediately following its conclusion, but it was so nice we just had to write it twice. Florida State absolutely manhandled North Carolina in Tallahassee en route to a 90-57 win. The Seminoles had the upper hand from the opening tip as the Tar Heels shot just 37.3% for the game. Deividas Dulkys, who was averaging just 6.2 points per game for Florida State, ripped off a career-high 32 on 12-of-14 from the field, including 8-for-10 from beyond the arc. With the Seminoles holding a 30-point lead for most of the second half, this game was no contest to say the least.

January 14- Virginia Tech @ Boston College
Boston College 61, Virginia Tech 59
Did I mention that Boston College wasn’t supposed to win an ACC game this year? Well they didn’t win just one last week, they won two. The Eagles pulled off the second-biggest upset of the week in the conference, going on the road to Blacksburg, one of the toughest places to play in the ACC, and knocking off the Hokies by a score of 61-59. Virginia Tech dropped to 0-3 on the year in the ACC with the loss, and it looks as though their NCAA tournament chances are already beginning to fade. Dennis Clifford scored a game-high 15 points for the Eagles while Virginia Tech was without its leading scorer, Erick Green. Forward Victor Davila picked up some of the slack, leading the Hokies with 14 points. The game close throughout, but Boston College was able to open up a 57-47 lead with just 3:40 to play. Virginia Tech was never really able to cut back into the lead, drawing to within two on Jarell Eddie’s 3-pointer at the buzzer. With the Eagles second-straight conference victory they improved to 7-10 on the season.

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