Luol Deng continues to make a case as one of the best players in the county. Not just freshman, but player. On this night Luol showed why Coach K has been so high on him in the preseason – he hit from inside and outside, played defense, hit the boards, and was basically unstoppable.
After a rough opening night, junior Daniel Ewing found his range and provided another scoring threat to compliment Deng on the perimeter. With J.J. Redick taking a good portion of the defense's attention while running off seemingly endless screens and Deng being a terror of a match up, Ewing should continue to see more favorable match ups. With a much-improved first step and the ability to beat a team with his jump shot, Dan is poised for a break out season.
Shelden Williams began to show a more aggressive and active role in the offensive game plan. Williams showed flashes of utilizing a drop step and the ability to get the ball up with either hand. While he still has much work to do, it is good to see him using more moves in the paint instead of just bulling his way around.
Another positive from the post came courtesy of Shavlik Randolph who put together 11 points, six rebounds, and four blocks (two of them of the swatting into the third row variety) in just 20 minutes of action. When he's able to play as a true power forward, Shavlik is proving a difficult match up for any opposing big guy. He's also still learning how to play fully healthy, which suggests he will only continue to improve as the season goes along.
What went wrong?
For the second time in as many games the Devils looked down right sluggish to start the game, at least on the offensive end of the floor. Pacific jumped out to an early lead and held for 10 minutes before Duke was able to take the lead for good and then cruise to the victory. While it is encouraging to see this team not panic when they get behind early, it is troubling to see such slow starts with so many of the nation's top teams coming up on the schedule.
The offense continuity continues to lack for long periods of time. While it is steadily improving, the main mindset seems to be to give the ball to Deng and everyone else get out of the way. That has worked to date, but when Duke has gone on the kind of runs that many are used to (see 24-8 spurt to start the second half), it has been because the ball is worked around and the extra passes are made. Thankfully these problems will likely work themselves out as the team continues to learn to play with one another. However it could be quickly erased if one of the veterans would step up and direct things on the court offensively.
Ultimately there isn't a team in the Shootout field that should, on paper, give Duke a real challenge. However with the way the Devils have started out in the first two games of the season there is a distinct possibility that Duke could be in a dogfight in the next two days.
Tonight Duke will face off against Liberty, which defeated Canisius 65-48 in the opening round of the tournament. On paper the Flames look less likely to compete with Duke than Pacific, having already lost by 26 to Williams and Mary before coming to Alaska. Stopping Liberty means slowing down all Big South wing guard Gabe Martin (14 ppg) and pounding the ball inside. With Duke's height that shouldn't be a problem as long as the Blue Devils want to get the ball to the big guys.