Despite the offense not clicking, Duke managed to find a way to grind out another victory thanks to the play of freshman Luol Deng, who was a match up nightmare for the Tigers on both the perimeter and inside. With the 6-foot-8 freshman providing a consistent scoring presence, the Blue Devils turned to their trademark defense to get a leg up on Clemson.
Though the Tigers were able to compete inside and did manage to get a number of good looks at the basket, Duke's ball pressure forced over 20 turnovers, which led to easy baskets when they were needed most. In total the Devils managed to swipe 13 steals, though only managed to block one shot.
Most notably, after the Tigers had tied the game at 27, Duke used a steal and then a pair of offensive rebounds to quickly score six points before Lee Melchionni knocked down a three pointer at the buzzer to give the Devils a working margin of nine at the break.
With the perimeter jumpers not falling (4-of-17 on the night), Duke managed to out work the Tigers on the glass, gaining a number of follow up opportunities. This was certainly a positive after the Tar Heels owned the boards on Thursday night. Shelden Williams led the way with 12 rebounds (five offensive), while Deng added seven.
With their jumpers not falling with the usual regularity, Duke did mange to convert at the free throw line (27-of-32 – 84%). The ball movement on the offensive end was also better than usual with J.J. Redick leading the way with a game high five assists. As a team Duke recorded assists on 14 of the 25 made field goals.
What Went Wrong:
Duke never seemed to have any kind of bounce to its step throughout much of the game. Instead the Devils would trade baskets before putting together a few mini flurries that allowed the lead to remain in the four-point range before the 9-0 spurt in the final minute of the first half.
Aside from being hungry and un-intimidated throughout much of the game, one of the reasons the Tigers were able to hang around as long as they did was Duke's apparent hangover. Errant passes and being bobbles along with Coach K going deep into the bench early in the first half painted a picture of a team that was ready to play mentally, but dragging physically.
Player of the Game:
While Redick takes home high scorer honors with 23, the player of the game has to be Deng, who tied his career high with 22 points to go along with seven rebounds, and three steals. Quietly Luol has been as good as advertised in the preseason. He leads all league freshmen in points per game, and rebounds and is second in blocks.
The Blue Devils return to Cameron Indoor Wednesday night to host a Virginia team that is looking for anyway to salvage what has become a disastrous season. After suffering a 22 point loss to the Devils at home in the beginning of the season, the Cavaliers will try and shock the league by coming into Cameron and picking up a victory on Wednesday night.
It'll be another good match-up inside as Shelden Williams will go toe-to-toe with Elton Brown, while the rest of the Wahoo roster will work for the upset in what looks to be head coach Pete Guillen's final run through the ACC. To be successful Duke will need to establish Williams on the inside early and crash the boards on both ends of the floor while maintaining a lock on the perimeter threats such as Todd Billet.