The offensive continuity continues to come around as seven players logged double figure minutes and six reached double figures in points. That's the kind of balance many were raving about after Midnight Madness when the team looked to have the offense clicking on all cylinders. Against St. John's it always seemed that there were weapons on the floor, while earlier in the season it seemed that if Deng wasn't hitting from the floor, Duke was in trouble.
One of the biggest surprises was the play of sophomore guard Sean Dockery who logged a career best 12 points, and seven steals in 23 minutes of action. Perhaps the most encouraging thing about Dockery's performance was the other part of his stat line, which read [b]0 turnovers[/b] and only one foul. Those two problems had plagued the Illinois native over the beginning of his career, but the extended minutes now seem to really be helping him get comfortable on the floor.
After a rough performance in the first half, the Blue Devils took care of business at the free throw line going down the stretch. Duke hit 14-of-16 attempts in the second half to help extend the lead when the Red Storm looked to be close to making a game out of it.
The interior tandem of Shelden Williams and Shavlik Randolph continues to be very strong with the pair of sophomores once again providing Duke with solid inside play. Williams finished with 10 points, five rebounds, and five blocks despite being limited by foul trouble. Meanwhile Randolph logged his first double-double in over a year with 14 points and 12 rebounds including an astounding seven offensive boards.
The third member of the starting frontcourt, Luol Deng, added 13 points, five rebounds in 30 minutes of action. It would seem to the common observer that Duke has found the winning formula for a starting lineup with Williams, Deng, Randolph, and Duhon being locks and the second guard position being up for grabs between Dockery, J.J. Redick, and Daniel Ewing.
That last starting spot may rotate throughout the season as Ewing and Redick have battled inconsistency so far on the offensive end of the floor. Against St. John's Ewing proved to have the slightly better night from the floor, scoring 13 points (5-of-9 from the field; 2-of-4 from three) and adding five steals, while Redick added 12 points (4-of-10 from the floor; 2-of-6 from the field) and three rebounds. Both logged big minutes and are virtual locks to be in the game as Duke goes down the stretch.
Perhaps the story of the young season is the way in which Duke is winning game. With the offense struggling at times, the defense has been superb. Against SJU Duke was able to force 21 turnovers including 16 steals, while blocking eight shots.
What Went Wrong:
Perhaps the biggest change from years past is the lack of a true knockout punch when it comes to getting big leads. After pushing the lead up to 10 points, Cameron seemed ready for another spurt that would likely push the lead to over 20, effectively deciding the game before the half. Instead the offensive effort seemed to stall. The second half seemed to bring more worry as the Red Storm was able to rally and make a game until the Devils did deliver the knockout blow. While it did come in the form of a 14-4 run with just over eight minutes remaining, many are still waiting for Duke to be able to put those kinds of things together early and often.
Player of the Game:
Again TDD is taking the easy way out and awarding co-players of the game awards. This time to Shavlik Randolph and Sean Dockery, both who played their best games in long time to help Duke shake a pesky opponent. With the addition of Dockery to the regular rotation, it seems that Coach K now has a healthy seven man rotation and with Nick Horvath and Lee Melchionni on the cusp of the top seven, Duke can go a comfortable seven deep if needed.
Duke faces a pair of teams in Portland and Princeton that shouldn't cause too many problems as far as match ups go. However the Pilots and Tigers are the kinds of teams that Duke should be able to put away early and not let hang around ala the early season games. The pair of home games lead up to a big match up with a very tough Texas team in New York.