For the first time this season the Blue Devils didn't start slow. In fact they starter very fast, connecting of six of their first eight attempts, while building a lead early. One of the catalysts for this was the early play of Shelden Williams and Lee Melchionni. Melchionni, in particular, quickly realized he could take his man outside and either drive or get open looks from the perimeter. He didn't force the offense, but took what was there within the flow of the game. The translation was eight of Duke's first 12 points for the 6'6 junior, and 14 for the game.
Meanwhile Williams had a career night against the Hurricanes. Early on the Blue Devils realized that Miami simply had no answer for Williams inside, and he quickly became the focus on the offensive end. When he wasn't over-powering his opponents for inside finishes, he was earning trips to the free throw line where he shot a career best 8-for-8. In the end the ‘Landlord' finished with a career high 30 points to go along with eight rebounds and a block.
Duke also got continued great play from J.J. Redick who made noise with his defense as much as his offense, holding the ACC's second leading scorer, Robert Hite, to just six points, while hitting for 21 of his own. Despite a relatively off shooting night from the field, especially before halftime, Redick still managed to hand out a handful of assists and convert from the free throw line before his shot returned in the second half.
Despite playing just 12 minutes as he battles back from mono, Shavlik Randolph made all his usual hustle plays for the Blue Devils, helping maintain momentum and actually making some noise on the defensive end with a key block and a few charges taken. His offense still isn't back, and you can see his legs are far from 100%, but the big guy's return has been a huge benefit to his team.
After several rough outings, Duke's Daniel Ewing once again looks confident and even a bit cocky on the offensive end. On Wednesday he had two highlight reel finishes: 1. an insane reverse lay-up and 2. a ‘jump out of the gym' alley-oop from Redick. Those big plays seemed to ignite his confidence, and it showed as he was unstoppable in the midrange game, and then his jumpshot also kicked in.
As a team Duke managed to shoot the basketball really well, hitting for 61% for the game. That was almost mandatory as they certainly weren't able to establish a presence on the glass (see below). The Blue Devils also shot 10-of-21 from long range, including several big shots in the second half to extend the lead to 19.
What Went Wrong
Miami absolutely killed Duke on the glass throughout the game, out-rebounding the Blue Devils 37-30 overall and 18-5 on the offensive side of things. More often than not, a team who owns the boards that decisively is going to win the game. Luckily for Duke, they shot 61% from the field while Miami's inability to play with poise during crucial stages resulted in several missed opportunities. However, the discrepancy on the glass is cause for alarm.
After building a 19 point lead, the Blue Devils relaxed and quickly Miami was back within striking distance, albeit too late. The real concern was with under 1:30 remaining Duke began bricking free throws, turning the ball over under their own basket, and generally looking out of sync as Miami quickly cut the lead and was an inch of cutting it to six points with under a minutes remaining.
The Blue Devils also couldn't stop Miami's fantastic sophomore Guillermo Diaz. In fact they couldn't even contain him as he was able to get to the basket whenever he wanted in the latter part of the second half.
Though it's to be expected due to inexperience, both freshmen had rough outings against the ‘Canes – both making plays that cost Duke the possession and drew the ire of Coach K. Both DeMarcus Nelson and David McClure are young, and chalk this one up to growing pains. Still, their growing pains resulted in Duke getting a combined 2 points, 4 rebounds, and one assist from the bench.
Though he's not as heralded as his backcourt teammates, Shelden Williams is quickly laying claim to the title of best big man in the ACC, and one of the best in the country. Wednesday he logged a career high 30 points, while proving unstoppable for the Hurricanes. For his efforts he is our TDD player of the game.
There's no rest for the Blue Devils as they head over to Tallahassee to meet the Florida State Seminoles this weekend. The ‘Noles are coming off an upset win over No. 3 Wake Forest and have beaten Duke for two straight seasons at home. Like Miami, FSU has a roster full of high major athletes. However, they also have a good amount of size to counter Williams. This is certainly a landmine game.