Jason Williams and Carlos Boozer closed out their Cameron careers today with another victory over UNC, winning 93-68.
Jason Williams put on a tremendous show, hitting for 37 points, and just missing a 40+ game.
Duke won largely on defense, and despite a stretch in the middle of the game which was reminiscent of the Virginia game. Fortunately, it didn't last, and while UNC cut the lead to 13 in that stretch, it soon shot back up. More on that later.
Doherty said the 25 turnovers were" like giving them the ball 25 times before the game starts, saying 'Here's 25 possessions, now let's play.' Against a team like that, you can't do that."
To us, it's more like saying: "you can't have 25 shots. Can you keep up?" We always look at turnovers as sort of rebounds that never happened. Add it up: if Duke outrebounded UNC 30-25, according to ESPN (we think their numbers are off, by the way), then add the respective turnovers, and it goes to 55-38. That's a fanciful way to look at it, of course, but still: turnovers are shots that never happened, and rebounds negated.
Despite the dip in the middle of the tournament, one of the ways to measure Duke's defense was how limited Lang's game was. He was held to 6 points and only 7 shots.
After UNC cut it to 13, Daniel Ewing made a tremendous steal, which was followed by a Lang foul, and then a Duhon three. After that, Dunleavy made a spectacular steal, and he and Duhon ran a textbook fast break, and the lead was 18 points again.
A few minutes after a UNC timeout, Duhon and Ewing ran another clinic on a break. From there, it was basically just like a python with a victim, with steadily increasing pressure.
Being Duke-UNC, there was of course a lot of tension and hostility in the game. UNC got called for three technicals, including one on Matt Doherty, near the 11:00 minute mark of the first half. In the second half, Jawad Williams was called for one when he elbowed Matt Christensen, saying that Christensen had shoved him after his dunk. Adam Boone was also called for one in a confrontation with Jason Williams in the second half. Williams was also given a technical in that exchange. Coach K also got tagged near the end of the first half.
The Boone-Williams dustup was basically woofing and fingerpointing, but before that happened, we were amazed at how skilled Boone has become at tossing his forearm around. He used it to make space on several occasions. Much like Steve Blake, and in fairness, Danny Ferry, he has learned tricks to offset not being as talented as his opponents. It's an old basketball tradition. Don Nelson was an absolute master of this sort of thing, among others.
Carolina fans are likely calling the situation between Christensen and Williams a punk move, but Williams was impeding Christensen's movement downcourt. They wouldn't call a foul in that situation very often, but Dean Smith used to do an inbounds play which relied on a very similar result to get a call: the guy standing out of bounds would run the baseline and run a defender into a stationary Heel. UNC won a game this way once upon a time. Williams definitely got popped, but if you stand in front of a 6-10, 260 lb. guy, your chances of getting popped go up considerably, particularly in a game which had become quite physical.
For UNC, certainly Jason Capel had a tremendous game, with 28 points. On one sequence, he went after the rebound 6 times, ultimately scoring from the line. Adam Boone has improved a great deal as a point guard since the beginning of the season, and while at times he played with a great deal of confidence, he only hit 2-7 and had 8 turnovers. Jawad Williams was also impressive and has improved a great deal over the course of the season.
To an extent, the problem with UNC is that the team is a collection of role players. One guy who will probably be a dramatically better player next year is Jawad Williams, who has legitimate big-time talent. But when you wrap Boone, Morrison (an talented but erratic player), Williams and Manuel around Raymond Felton and Sean May, brilliant talents at the point and in the paint, well, they can a) be role players if that's where their talent level lives, or b) develop more naturally without having to take on responsibilities they aren't ready for. You look at Manuel, and he's a talented player, and on Duke or Maryland, for instance, he could be an excellent defensive role player while he grows into the rest of his game. With Felton and May anchoring the team, he may get a chance to play that way next year.
Another guy who will benefit from the presence of Felton is Melvin Scott, who could do a lot of nice things if he's not the primary ballhandler. He's a talented kid, but he's not a natural point guard.
Add in Rashad McCants and the two big men, and you have an outstanding nucleus on which to build - and a number of roles and niches for players to fill.
That's not to knock this year's effort. A lot of guys, as we suggested, have been asked to do more than they are prepared to do. But when you see Boone, who no one calls a hugely talented player, make the most of his ability, and the long-term potential of Manuel and Scott, and the rapid emergence of Williams, you know this group has serious potential. Barring a serious miracle, it won't happen this year, but the seeds are there for a revival.
Notes - UNC is guaranteed 20 losses, though they could still get double figures in wins...on the way in, we saw several Duke women wearing leis and carrying a sign saying "Dahntay: we want to lei you..." it probably didn't make TV....noted in the crowd - Billy King, Paul Fox, Shavlik Randolph, J.J. Redick, Lee Melchionni, Brian Davis, and eternal Cameron favorite Gene Banks, who got a nice round when he walked in...just like old times, his charisma made him the center of attention...