FTS: Duke vs. Portland

Freshman Luol Deng led the most balanced offensive efforts of the year as Duke easily beat Portland by 41. However it was the Duke defense that was the talk of the town on Sunday as the Devils held the Pilots to just 24% shooting on the night including a paultry 3-of-28 from the field in the first half.

What Went Right:

The defensive effort was among the best in recent years. Duke absolutely shut down anything the Pilots wanted or tried to do on the offensive end, holding Portland to just 3-of-28 from the field in the first half. For the game Portland was only able to convert 16-of-62 field goal attempts for 24%.

While the Pilots misses their fair share of open looks, the number of easy or uncontested opportunities were few and far between as Duke blocked 14 shots, which probably would have been more had Shelden Williams not missed the entire second half. In total the Blue Devils forced 19 Pilot turnovers

With the defensive game looking as good as it had all season long, the Devils also began to find their offensive legs. The 84 points is a season high, but whats most encouraging is that on this night Duke was very balanced when it came to shot selection. All tolled Coach Ks squad hit 32 of the 62 shot attempts (49%), despite just a 6-for-22 showing from behind the arc.

The shot selection wasnt the only thing that was balanced; there was also the scoring load which saw seven Dukies log seven or more points despite the reserves playing far more minutes than many Blue Devil fans are used to including Lee Melchionni, who logged a season high 15 minutes and nine points, while senior Nick Horvath added five points and five rebounds in just 12 minutes of action.

Perhaps the biggest development the Portland game showed was the ability of this team to deliver a knockout punch early. Unlike past games the Devils didnt allow Portland back into the game after starting quickly. That wasnt the case in Alaska, when each of Dukes opponents were able to hang around before Purdue eventually was able to come back all the way.

What Went Wrong:

Obviously the uncertainty of Shelden Williams health status is unsettling for any and all Blue Devil fans. The only unofficial word floating around via the Duke Radio Network is an Achilles Injury, however the unofficial word on the court after the game was a sprained ankle that was re-aggravated. Still, it would be nice to know that The Landlord will be ready to go.

Aside from the injury bug, the Devils continue to await J.J.Redicks breakout performance this season. To date Redick has struggled from the field, and tonight was more of the same as the junior sharpshooter hit just 3-of-10 shots from beyond the arc. Still you have to believe that hes too good of a shooter to continue struggling from the field. The one thing that jumped out tonight was how he was getting his shot off, mostly coming from breaks or kick-outs instead of continuously running off screens. This has much to do with Dukes offense beginning to come around (read Shavlik, Shelden, and Luol Deng converting on the interior.

With the offense now geared toward working the ball inside and then looking for secondary options from there, its important for Duke to knock down free throws, especially the backcourt. However that didnt happen at the rate which Coach K prefers (between 70 and 75 percent), as Duke hit just 14-23 from the charity stripe including a 3-of-7 mark turned in from the top of the guard rotation (Duhon, Dockery, Ewing).

Player of the Game:

Some of the most notable performances included Shavlik Randolphs near double-double (9 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks), Chris Duhons steady game from his floor general spot (7 points, 6 assists), and Shelden Williams phenomenal first half (8 points, 5 rebounds, 6 blocks). Still the player of the game on this night was unquestionably Luol Deng, who had the kind of game many got used to seeing from him in high school that is, the kind of game where he just blends nearly to the point of anonymity, but still manages to post an impressive stat line.

In this case it was a 15 point, nine rebound, three assist, and three block performance that left anyone watching the game wondering when he was able to do all that. For that, Luol is our TDD Player of the Game.

Looking Ahead:

Now standing 6-1 on the season the Blue Devils await the Princeton Tigers, who will be in town on Wednesday for the final tune-up before Duke travels to Madison Square Garden to take on the Texas Longhorns. Princeton still employs a very slow, deliberate, and disciplined style of offense that can cause nightmares for opposing offenses. It should be a nice test heading to New York.

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