The talk leading up to this game was mostly about Henderson not playing. If you made your way through the bullshit, you heard talk of NC State point guard Engin Astur. Astur didn’t play in the first game between Duke and State, and Duke dominated the whole game. Astur was the difference in the game, as he made the big shots that NC State needed to take down the Blue Devils. And when you throw in Brandon Costner’s huge night in the post, the Devils were on their heels most of the game.
Turnovers, like most of the season killed the Blue Devils. They committed 18, and most of those lead to NC State points. The defense in the post was horrific, as Josh McRoberts couldn’t stop Costner or McCauley from doing anything they wanted. The entire game was like a title fight, as the two teams went back and forth. At times Duke looked like they were going to run away with it. But NC State turned it up with a few minutes left, and Duke was playing catch up in crunch time. Duke’s dominance in the ACC tournament will not be defended this year, and they will have to sit and wait to see what the selection committee gives them.
Josh McRoberts had a terrible defensive game against UNC. This one was much the same. He was never able to stop the two big men for State, who like Hansbrough, did whatever they wanted. Josh was putting together a nice run in the second half, and finished with 17 points. But his lack of stop defense was a huge reason Duke is leaving Tampa with nothing.
Greg Paulus was hitting his shot early on, and was looking like the one who could lead this team to something special. But his inability to make the shots at the end of the game was devastating. He went a horrific 3-9 from behind the arc. He ended up with a team high 18 points, but only managed 2 assists. Paulus’ improvement has been great throughout the season, but I hope next year he can find a way to create more for the whole team, and not just himself.
Jon Scheyer and DeMarcus Nelson had solid games in the Blue Devil loss. Scheyer recorded 14 points, Nelson had 17. Scheyer was better from behind the arc than usual, but his field goal shooting was suspect. Nelson was able to get great penetration, and created many shots for himself.
It is hard to take anything good away from a loss, but one thing was remembering that Marty Pocius could play. Not getting many minutes this season, Pocius had to play significant minutes because of the absence of Gerald Henderson. Pocius was phenomenal on the offensive end, and gave Duke a shot in the arm. He scored 14 points, which was a career high for him. He has the ability to penetrate the lane and finish at the basket. This proves that he can still be an important factor in Duke’s future runs at a national championship.
For the first time in a long time, Duke will not make the final game of the ACC tournament. Obviously this has been a rough year for Duke fans, as we are definitely not accustomed to losing. The season is not over, as Duke will be playing in the NCAA tournament. Sunday they will learn their fate, and I am sure they are preparing as you read this. They will have to look deep within themselves, and find something that I believe is there, but hasn’t come out yet. A headline today read “The King is Dead”. I don’t think the King is dead at all. He just got punched in the stomach. Duke might not be on the top of the mountain. But rest assure that they didn’t fall all the way down. They will eventually reclaim their throne that is temporally vacated, and return to greatness.