Sunday, they saw a Duke team which came much closer to reaching their potential than they have in some time. There was a relatively brief period when Duke's concentration appeared to wane in the first half, and after going down 21-7, almost exactly where Wake mounted their comeback Saturday, State cut the lead to five. Duke erupted after that, though, and took a 46-32 lead into halftime.
In the second half, Duke just took State apart, and all the pieces to this team came together in championship fashion. Chris Duhon did a tremendous job leading the team, Dahntay Jones put a significant blanket on Anthony Grundy, Dunleavy was brilliant, Williams was as well, but the performance of the day was by Carlos Boozer. As a matter of fact, he was The Man all weekend, and won the Everette Case Award for the MVP of the tournament. It was nice seeing his parents celebrate after he won it. Carlos, Sr. is an ebullient man, and almost always upbeat. His mom is more reserved and serious. Both of them were obviously elated by the recognition of his performance.
It was well-deserved. Boozer was 11-12 from the floor, 4-7 from the line, had five boards, four steals, and 26 total points. His overall court awareness was sensational.
Jason Williams, who has a history of coming up big in big games, had a hip injury yesterday, but said he'd be ready, and he was a man of his word. Jason was 8-15 from the floor, had 10 assists, four boards, and two steals. Pretty reasonable for a guy who was sore.
Dunleavy was 7-11, had seven boards, three assists, three blocks, a steal, and a total of 18 points.
Dahntay Jones had a quiet offensive game, but did a tremendous job on Anthony Grundy, who has been en fuego lately, to say the least. Holding that kid to 13 points, with what he's done lately, is a true accomplishment - particularly since all Grundy's points came in the first half.
Coach K called this the best floor game Duhon has played this year. A point guard doesn't need to be flashy to be great. Chris has sublimated his game to accomodate others, and has really been brilliant and unselfish.
We've also been impressed with the contributions of Daniel Ewing and Nick Horvath, who has really come on. A lot of people aren't giving Nick credit for completely changing his game. He came to Duke as an offensive player, and because Duke has needed defense and rebounding, he has overhauled his game and dramatically improved those skills. It's hard to remember a few weeks ago that he was not playing much, and when he did he seemed a bit shaky. The kid has cemented a place on this team by doing dirty work, and that's often our favorite kind of player. He's become reliable and predictable, and that's why he is playing.
Coach K said in his comments after the game that Duke had matured a lot over the last couple of weeks and he was reluctant to say much to the kids before the game because they had already gotten themselves pumped up. They have been periodically brilliant and periodically puzzling. In the championship game, though, they played at a remarkably high level and really have set themselves up on a solid note for the NCAAs.