Duke was supposed to beat UNC-Asheville. There was no doubt about it. But the purpose of this game was to see how the Blue Devils would come out after a their first loss of the season. The big story of the game was that Coach K held back his usual starters and let the 2nd unit begin the game. It is cliche to say that he was sending a message to his starters, but the way they played when they all got in their was a huge step up from the Michigan game. We all know the UNC-A isn’t in the same league as Michigan, but they were playing much harder that they were against the Wolverines and had much better balance. Of course it helps that their shots were falling, but they still used a solid inside game, and drove to the basket what seems like a hundred percent more than against Michigan. Case in point was shooting 19 free throws, and making 16 of them. 39% percent of their shots were from 3pt range. A stat that I think is important to look at with this team. I would really like to see them take less shots one game to see how much more efficient they might be. It helps that the 3pt shots they did miss were easily picked up by Duke, as UNC-A had a definite height disadvantage. Duke took down 17 offensive rebounds. However, they might find more trouble with other teams that have solid inside games. Even if the shots are falling, they need to concentrate more on driving to the basket.
A thing I noticed was how Greg Paulus finally started making some shots, but looked a little rough running the offense. When he tried to throw an alley-oop to Henderson it was no where close. Smith ran the same play minutes before and it was perfect. I have to believe that not running the point full time is really messing with his game. I think he needs to be used more with Smith in the game, and running around screens to create shots for himself. This all depends on if he is consistently making shots of course.
All in all a fun game to watch. I was concentrating on Duke’s defense for much of the game, and thought for the most part the were doing a good job. They still are susceptible to the back cut, which we all know killed them against Michigan. But the help defense was much better.
No for the real test. Xavier is without a doubt the best team we have faced. Some call it home court for Duke, but when you have that many people in one stadium it is hard to tell who has the advantage. I really interested to see how Thomas and Zoubek play against a formidable front court. Should be an interesting matchup to watch.