Paulus' Improved Play Keys Duke

In 24 hours Duke did something amazing. By winning at Boston College Duke not only silenced their critics, but also injected some much needed optimism into the remaining season. The catalyst for Wednesday night's turnaround? Perhaps the most maligned player on the roster.

Duke beat the ACC leaders soundly on their homecourt because Greg Paulus didn't try to do it all himself on the offensive end of the floor. The player in the number three jersey wasn't a shooting guard who also happened to handle the ball. No, this was the point guard the Blue Devils had a season ago - only better.

His final line of 15 points, a season high seven assists, and four rebounds was exactly the kind of numbers Duke needs to compete with the ACC's upper echelon. By improving his shot selection and becoming more of a distributor, Paulus got better looks at the basket, and spurred his team to what could have been a season high in points had Duke not elected to run the clock with nearly 11 minutes remaining.

Early in the game the biggest benefactor of Paulus's play was Josh McRoberts, who was often the recipient of bullet passes that resulted in easy dunks. And when the Eagles began to bring double teams, McRoberts' passing ability was once again showcased. The big man logged five assists of his own which further spread the floor and opened lanes to the basket for players such as Gerald Henderson and DeMarcus Nelson.

Nelson, who had been mired in a scoring slump, finished with 15 points, six rebounds, and three assists. He also was able to convert three of his five perimeter attempts after the motion and ball movement left him wide open in the left corner numerous times. The same was true of Henderson, who hit five of his six attempts from the field - all off dribble drives.

Only freshman sharpshooter Jon Scheyer struggled from the field, hitting just four of his 12 attempts though he did knock down 3-of-7 from the perimeter. With the physical nature of the game inside the arc, Scheyer's ability to extend the defense was another factor in opening the lanes for more sturdy teammates to attack.

All told the Blue Devils finished with 19 assists on 33 made field goals, while putting four starters in double figures. None of those four players took more than 13 shots, and none took fewer than nine. It prevented Boston College from zeroing in on any one player - something opponents had been able to do in the four previous games.

With the pressure of a four game losing streak now a memory, the Blue Devils head into the last four conference games upbeat and now playing for seeding, not a bid in the NCAA Tournament. Wednesday night's victory was certainly a step in the right direction for Duke - especially Paulus. Similar performances down the stretch will ensure a strong finish to the regular season, and could have this young team peaking at the right time. Which would be another change that was worth the wait.

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