From The Stands: Duke vs. UNCG

The Blue Devils improved to 3-0 on the season with a convincing victory over hapless UNC-Greensboro on Saturday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Led by the trio of Daniel Ewing, J.J. Redick, and Shelden Williams, Duke was never tested while rolling to a 54 point blow out win. TDD examines the game from our perch in the stands.

What Went Right

Once again the Blue Devils were able to maintain a balanced rotation with balanced production against a weak opponent. The Spartans saw Coach K go as deep as possible into his bench, rotating nine players for double digit minutes. Of those nine players, seven scored in double figures including a career high 10 points from reserve post player Reggie Love.

The starting frontcourt of Shelden Williams and Shavlik Randolph logged 26 and 24 minutes respectively, while combining for 27 points, 18 rebounds, 6 assists, and five blocks. Randolph, in particular, was impressive with his passing, setting up several teammates for open looks after double teams came to help inside.

In the backcourt Duke continues to get solid play from junior Sean Dockery, who was often left wide open by the UNCG defenders, trying to help on Redick and Ewing. Dockery shot the ball well (3-of-7 from three point range), and handed out five assists to just two turnovers in 25 minutes. If the 6'2 junior can continue to knock down open perimeter looks, things will open up for Williams inside as well as the other perimeter attackers, who often draw double teams.

The Blue Devils also shared the ball better than they had in the previous two games, with assists coming on 22 of the 37 made field goals. This included a career high eight assists from J.J. Redick, who has put in the time to transform from just a shooter to more of an all around offensive threat. Despite his perimeter jump shot still remaining illusive, Redick has shown the ability to put up points in bunches from drives, midrange pull ups, and getting to the free throw line.

The defense was also strong as Duke held UNCG without a field goal attempt for the first two and a half minutes of the game. After stealing the first in-bounds pass, the Blue Devils seemed to energize and close passing lane as soon as they opened for the overwhelmed Spartans. In the end Duke forced 24 UNCG turnovers including 13 steals, while also blocking 12 shots and holding their opponents to just 29.5% shooting from the field.

What Went Wrong

After running out to a 60-21 halftime advantage, the Blue Devils put it on cruise control in the second half and quickly showed the offensive flow can't afford such a luxury at this point in the season.

After an initial blitz that upped the lead to 44, Duke spend the next 12 minutes mired in an ugly offensive performance that produced a score of Duke-15, UNCG-14. Over those 12 minutes the Blue Devils turned the ball over eight times, fell in love with the perimeter jumper (hitting just 1-of-10), and went just 4-of-15 from inside the arc for a grand total of 5-of-25 (20%). Of those four regular field goals, it was Reggie Love leading the way with two made baskets.

Clearly this is not the kind of offensive production that Duke can afford once the ACC kicks off as droughts like that will translate into lopsided runs by the opposing high level teams. That 12 minute stretch was reminiscent of last year's Great Alaska Shootout where Duke struggled with two inferior opponents before being beaten by Purdue. That team rebuilt itself with a defense first attitude, and this year's team seems likely to do the same while waiting to develop a more cohesive offensive flow.

Player of the Game

Despite his trademarked perimeter jumper experiencing some difficulties early on, J.J. Redick has been able to make his team better by scoring in a variety of ways. On Saturday he once against tied for game high scoring honors, but also handed out a career high eight assists against one turnover in 29 minutes. For his efforts, Redick is our TDD Player of the Game.

Final Thoughts

It's hard not to be happy with a 54-point victory, but this win was not without concerns. After three games it is clear that the Blue Devils' defense is once again ahead of the offense. Luckily for Coach K, he's got a roster full of Final Four experience, which translates into a team that doesn't get rattled easily, though they can get a bit trigger happy when shots stop falling instead of running through the offense.

Looking Ahead

The Blue Devils get their first true test of the season on Tuesday night as the No. 9 rated Michigan State Spartans come to town bent on revenge for last year's embarrassing 72-50 loss in the Breslin Center. That game featured a Duke team that had a number of questions putting the offensive worries on the back burner and truly committing to defense.

The rosters of both teams are similar to last year's groups though both have improved since that time. This time the game is in the friendly confines of Cameron. However the Spartans will easily be the toughest team Duke has faced to date, and could be the best team on the non-conference schedule. They run an extremely athletic lineup that includes three wings, a true point guard, and an All-Big Ten center in Paul Davis. Duke will have to be in shape as MSU will look to wear down the Devils and attack them inside in hopes of opening the lane with Williams on the bench.

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