Duke got exactly what many expect from a Princeton team: Tough, disciplined play on both ends of the floor, and a tempo that would keep the score in the 60's. Despite wanting to get up and down the floor a bit more, Duke was able to do enough things right to come away with an 18-point victory.
Despite a very cold shooting night from pretty much the entire roster, the Blue Devils were able to once again play well enough on the defensive end, and create turnovers that led to easy baskets and ultimately a comfortable margin. On the evening Duke forced the Tigers into 20 turnovers (11 off of steals), and converted that into nearly 30 points on the offensive end.
While the perimeter jumpers were still M.I.A on this night, Duke was able to take advantage of their size advantage in the paint by forcing the ball in to Shelden Williams, Shavlik Randolph, and Luol Deng. Though the conversion rate on the interior wasn't' as high as we've come to expect in the last few games, Duke did converted their free throws with regularity: hitting 15-of-19 attempts (79%).
Perhaps the biggest positive of the night was the play of Luol Deng, who stepped up and really put the team on his back in the second half when Princeton looked to be edging its way back into the game. Deng hit from the perimeter, midrange, and even slashed to the basket with ease on his way to 15 second half points before leaving with a cramp in his left leg.
It was also good to see Shelden on the floor for an extended time period, playing with no visible pain. Though he didn't look 100%, it is encouraging to see him back after sustaining the injury Sunday.
What Went Wrong:
With Princeton being so disciplined on the defensive end, the Blue Devils seemed a bit taken aback when it came to an offensive strategy. This led to suspect shot selection at times, most of which clanged off the rim. In an effort to force the tempo, the Duke backcourt would often take shots with 25 or more seconds remaining on the shot clock. While this strategy works when the shots are falling, against Princeton nothing seemed to bounce the Blue Devils' way, allowing the Tigers to stay in the game throughout the second half.
Aside from the shot selection there continues to be a general slump surrounding the team when it comes to jump shots. Obviously Redick and Ewing both showed signs of coming out of it, especially early on, but overall the pair are still struggling to get the shots to fall. This is not unlike the slump Trajan Langdon suffered through in the 1998 before getting hot once again.
The Tigers' major strength is patience on the offensive end, which forces their opponents to play defense for the complete possession. A couple of times the Duke defenders got caught watching, which allowed Princeton easy cuts or open looks from the perimeter. This is where someone needs to step up and be a vocal leader on the defensive end, barking out orders and position assignments. As the game wore on, you could see that it started to click as defense got much better. Still if the Tigers hadn't gone stone cold from the perimeter the outcome could have been much closer.
Player of the Game:
For his all around effort, there really is no choice but to name freshman forward Luol Deng as our TDD Player of the Game.
The Blue Devils travel to New York on Saturday to face #10 Texas, which will be looking to make a statement after being handled relatively easily by Arizona in their only other big game of the year. The Longhorns have the athletes on the perimeter to match up and stay with Duke. They also have the muscle and toughness on the interior to really test both Randolph and Williams, neither of which can afford foul trouble nor poor performances for Duke to be successful. Duke will have to rebound very well and really knock down their open looks if they are to be successful in the Garden.