For Carlos, it's not just that he's a great player, but he's got unusually sound fundamentals, and he does a lot of things well - shoot obviously, but also pass, defend and rebound. For him, it's all coming together and in a wonderful way.
What's better is that he and his teammates are really incorporating the inside-outside game, and the passing has hit a truly exquisite level. The second half was essentially a clinic, and despite being a superior defensive team - really it's Sendek's signature - State had no answer.
This was somewhat different in the first half, when the Pack managed to get a number of backdoor cuts and played 10-12 minute of really great basketball, led by Marcus Melvin, who was sensational. Melvin hit the first nine points of the game and really gave State a lot of confidence.
Ultimately, though, Duke overtook State and pulled ahead by 10 at the half.
Whenever a weaker team outperforms a stronger one, the natural question is: what gives? Did the underdog play better? Did the favored not play to their potential? Often it's a mix of both, and that was the case in this game. State played brilliantly for a bit, Duke took a while to get started, but they got going late in the second half, and a technical foul called on Dahntay Jones seemed to really fire things up.
We haven't heard what exactly happened, only that he apparently said something or did something and got T'd up. Not a wise move, not least of all after the Clemson game. This could be a real problem if it happens in a critical game situation. State took advantage of it, but Duke seemed to get more inspired and shortly thereafter stretched the lead to 10 on a last-second shot by Carlos Boozer.
In the second half, Duke just laid waste to State inside, going to Boozer repeatedly, and just shredding State's defense. The passing was amazing - Duke found all sorts of ways through State's defense, and got easy basket after easy basket. Chris Duhon hit a three and got a steal, which was followed by a Dahntay Jones rebound dunk, and the game, for all intents and purposes, was over.
In one sense, this was an odd game, because Dunleavy was pretty off his game in some ways. He struggled offensively in the first half, and he was the guy who started out on Marcus Melvin, who went off in a big way very early.
But in spite of Dunleavy's offensive (and defensive) woes, he rebounded well and passed well, and the other guys stepped up, notably Jones, Duhon, and Ewing, who had one eye-popping behind-the-back pass in the second half. Nick Horvath is also beginning to contribute more - you'll notice he is usually the first big man off the bench these days - and that's a big difference because he is so versatile. There's not much need to praise Boozer and Jones. They were really, really good tonight.
On State's side of the ledger, Anthony Grundy continues his solid play, and Illian Evtimov, while unsteady with his passing, is a guy who will be a tremendous asset as he matures. He was in a major mismatch with Boozer, but he also went backdoor a fair amount. Marcus Melvin also will be a solid ACC player. The riddle, at this point, is Julius Hodge.
Hodge is a real talent, but his attitude is getting in the way. In the Duke game, he slapped the floor, mocking the Duke tradition. In the previous Duke game, he was just a bit ridiculous, going down on Duke's end to shoot, and pushing and shoving in the center circle. And then there was the smack on Steve Blake. We said a lot of people probably wanted to do it, but no one else did.
Total damage in the two Duke games? 2 points.
The New York attitude is backfiring. It's of limited use even there, because above a certain level, no one buys the cheap intimidation. The game in a game is amusing, but when you come up against guys like Jason Williams or Steve Blake, they won't fall for it. Julius would be better advised to quit woofing and start playing harder. And smarter, for that matter.
Duke outrebounded State 33-24, had 9 turnovers to 19, hit nearly 80% from the free throw line, and shot 62% to State's 50%.
All in all, a wonderful night. Now on to Orkland!