Duke Deals St. John's Worst Loss Ever, 97-55

If Duke had taken a baseball bat and worked St. John's over like a loan shark with a hangover, it might have been uglier. But not by much. You can say a lot about this game, but fundamentally, you can start and finish it with this: St. John's started off great. St. John's went up 20-13. St. John's went into halftime down 48-21. That's a 35-1 run, and that was pretty much the game. <p>

If Duke had taken a baseball bat and worked St. John's over like a loan shark with a hangover, it might have been uglier. But not by much. You can say a lot about this game, but fundamentally, you can start and finish it with this: St. John's started off great. St. John's went up 20-13. St. John's went into halftime down 48-21. That's a 35-1 run, and that was pretty much the game.

More impressively, Duke's defense pretty much shut St. John's out after the 13 minute mark of the first half. St. John's got a free throw. That was it. One point. In the parlance of the day, St. John's was punked. Punked is a street term, and it has an interesting etymology. In his day, Elvis was called a punk. It's not a compliment. This was the worst whipping in the illustrious history of the Johnnies.

The stat sheet is amazing to read after the 13 minute mark: missed jumpers, turnovers, general futility. The funny thing was, for the first seven minutes, St. John's was brilliant. They spread the court, got Duke out of position repeatedly, and got nice, easy open jumpers and drives. They looked great.

For the rest of the first half, defense ruled the day. Duke made St. John's look, basically, incompetent. Nothing worked. ESPN says that Jarvis was so disgusted, he held his nose.

As promised, St. John's brought a tremendously physical game into Cameron, and we think that's great: it's how a lot of teams will attack this Blue Devil unit, and better they get used to it now. Simply putting the ball up anywhere near the basket was an ordeal in the beginning of the game, and there was plenty of pushing and shoving. As a matter of fact, we're not sure we've ever seen a game where more people ended up on the floor (without diving after the ball) than this one. Charge/block situations were called tightly, but otherwise, it was pretty much a free-for-all underneath and in transition.

Individual accolades - that's a toughie. Mike Dunleavy was pounded, and probably will be for the rest of the year. It worked for Maryland, it worked for St. John's, and others will try. But he had steals, and assists, and double figures in rebounds.

Despite being pushed around, Carlos Boozer still hit 8-12 - many after Duke broke St. John's will - and pushed back. Not in a literal sense, but in the sense of being a powerful rebounder, and not backing down to the physical nature of the game.

Actually, this is a good point to discuss the approach St. John's took. They have some talent, and they can hurt you, but they play the City game, and that means intimidation through power (hence, being "punked" is doubly bad): dunks most of all, but drives are good, and if you can knock someone down and woof a bit while they're down, well, that works too.

There is a soul to the City game, don't get us wrong. But all too often, when plan A fails, there is no plan B. That happened to a lot of St. John's players today, and the pressure at times got to them.

As Duke pressed its advantage, St. John's weak fundamentals began to cost them: 6-19 from three point range, 34% overall, 35% from the line, 23 turnovers. There's no way to overcome that many wasted trips.

By the second half, Duhon was lobbing alleyoops to Jason Williams, and pulled a ridiculous fake shot for a Boozer dunk. Daniel Ewing found Casey Sanders on the break, and he went up, up, up and got the ball for a massive dunk.

Jason Williams had a very fine all-round game, hitting 10-17, with five assists. Duhon had seven assists, three steals, and seven points.

At the beginning of the game, Dahntay Jones looked like the only offense Duke had. He ended up with 19 points on 9-13 shooting.

Daniel Ewing continued his solid play and he's a player you can build around, too. He's going to be really good.

Nick Horvath, who has been a walking injury for much of his Duke career, has taken a lot of criticism from fans, and some have wondered why he's playing so much lately. It's simple: there's a niche on this team for a backup big man, and a guy who will rebound and play defense. Nick's forte is shooting, but he's putting that aside and Sunday he worked the boards hard and played pretty solid defense. He's figured out how to carve out his niche, and more power to him. His injuries have made it difficult for people to see why Bob Gibbons compared him to Bobby Jones, but as he gets healthier, and more consistent, it becomes more clear that he's a good runner, and he has an instinct for the game. The problem for Nick has been simple: getting enough repetitions of things. At this level, conditionining is a razor's edge. Nick, for the first time, can build on a healthy stretch, and he's improving rapidly.

All things considered, this was a great game for Duke, not because of the score, but because of the challenge and how they handled it. It's a great way to get ready for March, and hopefully April, and this game will pay big dividends later.


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