The defense was once again the cornerstone of the Duke effort. Though Clemson is having major trouble on the offensive end of the floor this year, the Blue Devils contested every shot and crashed the boards on every shot attempt. Despite being outrebounded for the first time all season, Duke managed to force the Tigers into a woeful shooting performance (20-of-52 for 38.5% from the floor) in addition to forcing 16 turnovers including nine steals.
The interior defensive effort was equally good though not as challenged with Clemson big man Chris Hobbs suffering the effects of a bad ankle sprain in his last game. Still the combination of Shavlik Randolph and Shelden Williams managed to block four shots, and pull down 10 defensive rebounds.
Offensively Duke began to convert off of Clemson turnovers, allowing a healthy margin to open early. Senior Chris Duhon continued his high level of play, scoring 10 points while handing out seven assists.
Perhaps the biggest improvement for Duhon has been his willingness to attack the basket off the dribble. Last year he seemed content to pull up from the perimeter, which slowed the Duke offense when the shots weren't falling. This year he's taking his man off the dribble and keeping the interior help honest by either dishing or finishing at the basket. By making the defense collapse he's allowing the perimeter shooters more time to get good shots off, and getting easy baskets in the paint for the big guys.
For his part Ewing played his best game of the season, scoring a game high 19 thanks to finally having some explosion back in his legs after battling a foot injury throughout the early season. If Duke can get Ewing back in the offensive flow, the offense all of a sudden becomes much more lethal and, more importantly, balanced from the outside.
What Went Wrong:
While it's hard to nitpick when you win an ACC road game by nearly 20, there is one concern catching our amateur eye. Right now it would seem the offense isn't looking inside as much as earlier in the season despite having Randolph and Williams consistently demanding the ball. While Duke will never be a post oriented team, it would be nice to see a few set plays run for the big guys to keep them happy.
While it didn't matter tonight, the Devils shot just six free throws the entire game. Had the big guys gotten a few more touches, they may have been able to get to the line a bit more frequently.
Player of the Game:
The game ball has to go to Ewing for his breakout performance. He had his shoe insert removed this week and said in the post game interview that he feels a lot better when rising up. Hopefully he'll continue to find his springs as the season continues, which will give Redick a break as the main long range concern for opposing defenses.
Duke returns home for a Tuesday match up with Fairfield in one final tune up before the ACC season really kicks into high gear with a trip to Virginia next Sunday. Obviously it would take a disaster for the Devils to lose in the next game, and the main concern will be knocking off any rust that remains from the holiday layoff and getting everyone completely healthy for the start of the season.