This afternoon Duke Basketball overwhelmed NC State 95 to 60. This is a well-coached NC State group that has beaten a good Tennessee team and defeated Notre Dame in South Bend. What we witnessed today was a Duke team ratcheted up to double intensity. Duke was playing the tough defense that we’ve witnessed only in patches til now.
In many games this season, when Duke establishes a decent lead, they’ve visibly relaxed on defense or taken some ill-advised shots. Not today. Today they went for the jugular and simply put on more pressure. In fact, they stole the ball 14 times, caused State to commit 21 turnovers and they outrebounded them 35-32.
One interesting stat to note is that Duke defeated State by 35 points even though the Wolfpack almost matched them in field goal percentage: 50% to 48.1%. The Blue Devils did it by scoring 18 of 21 free throws and causing all those turnovers.
Jabari Parker showed up again in a big way. He scored 23 points, pulled down 7 rebounds, got 1 assist, and 3 steals. Amile Jefferson also helped big time on the boards with 8 rebounds and with 9 points. Everyone seemed to be involved in those all-important intangibles. Rodney Hood was working behind the scenes. Andre Dawkins was hitting his 3-pointers, Tyler Thornton alone had 4 steals. Rasheed Sulaimon had 13 points, but, more important, he had 6 assists that were smooth as silk. He made other guys look better. He’s working his role.
So is all right with the world? Can we dream sweet dreams tonight? I know what you’re thinking. Which Blue Devil team will show up for the next game and the one after that? I admit, that has me a little edgy too. We’ve seen the team that almost defeated Arizona, the current number one team in the nation. We’ve witnessed the team that looked like a defensive sieve against Notre Dame. We’ve noted the team that overcame a tough Michigan group and a game UCLA.
This is still a relatively young Duke team and they have more lessons to learn. However, after the last two games, there should be a new glint in their eyes. They’ve hit bottom—lost a few tough ones—but they also know they can overcome adversity. They realize that if they leave it all out on the floor every single game, they can be a good Duke team. Maybe a very good Duke team.