Defense Sustains Duke In Dark Times

The Sports Xchange reviews the year to date and looks forward to the upcoming tests for Duke.

Whenever there's a rough patch for the Blue Devils, they retreat to more emphasis on defense.

And again, that seemed to be the solution. The Blue Devils don't usually just talk about defense, but they tend to take action.

Duke held nationally ranked Clemson to 47 points three nights after giving up 88 points in a loss to North Carolina State.

"We rested and we prepared hard for this game," coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the plan going into the Clemson game.

Clemson became the sixth Duke opponent this season to shoot less than 20 percent on 3-pointers. Clemson failed to reach the 25-point mark in the first half in both meetings with Duke this season.

Duke ought to be in a good mindset for what's usually a defensive tussle with Florida State, which visits for Wednesday night's game. It will be a rematch of the 2009 ACC Tournament championship game, which was won by Duke.

With both defenses bound to be prominent, the Blue Devils will want to spruce up their offense. One good sign for them might be that after 11 first-half turnovers at Clemson, they only committed two turnovers in the second half.

NOTES, QUOTES
--Duke held Clemson to 47 points in the second meeting of the season. This came after the Tigers managed only 53 points in the first get-together. The latest performance for the Duke defense meant Clemson had its lowest output at home against any opponent in nearly seven years.

--Duke's victory against Clemson on Jan. 23 completed a sweep of the Tigers for this regular season. It also gave the Blue Devils a better feeling than the last time they visited Clemson; they suffered a 27-point defeat last season.

ON THE SPOT: Duke's depth works both ways in many seasons because the Blue Devils are considered a team bubbling with talent. But sometimes the player rotation becomes rather restricted, and that's the case again. Duke used only eight players against Clemson, with the three reserves accounting for a total of 25 minutes and no points. Four of the starters played 35 or more minutes, with senior guard Jon Scheyer staying on the court for the entire game. If nothing else, the Blue Devils should be used to the extended minutes as the season progresses.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There is no question that teams gain confidence after a win. This is a really big win for us." -- Coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team improved to 4-1 this season against nationally ranked teams after winning Jan. 23 at Clemson.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP: The Blue Devils have avoided slides this season, recovering from their two three with solid victories, including the Jan. 23 win at Clemson. They've benefited from consistent backcourt play from G Jon Scheyer and G Nolan Smith. They've not only been their leading scorers, but they've provided stability at just about every turn.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Jon Scheyer, G Nolan Smith, C Miles Plumlee, F Kyle Singler, F Lance Thomas. Key Subs -- C Brian Zoubek, F Mason Plumlee, F Ryan Kelly, G Andre Dawkins.

GAME REVIEW:

  • Duke 90, Wake Forest 70
  • North Carolina State 88, Duke 74
  • Duke 60, Clemson 47
GAME PREVIEW
  • Florida State, Wednesday, Jan. 27
  • at Georgetown, Saturday, Jan. 30
  • Georgia Tech, Thursday, Feb. 4
  • at Boston College, Saturday, Feb. 6
  • at North Carolina, Wednesday, Feb. 10

IN FOCUS: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski likes playing Saturday games because it gives his team a full day off on the Sunday that follows. That particularly works out well when the Blue Devils win on Saturday, as they did most recently at Clemson. Duke is two games into a stretch on the schedule that calls for five road games in a seven-game span so any little bit of time to rest is crucial at this juncture.

ROSTER REPORT:
--G Jon Scheyer is staying out of foul trouble, a key factor as he's on the court most of the time. He played 40 minutes Jan. 23 at Clemson, picking up one foul. He hasn't had more than two fouls in any game this season. That was the case even when picking up two fouls in the first eight minutes against Wake Forest.

--F Lance Thomas scored a season-high 13 points against Clemson. But coach Mike Krzyzewski was equally impressed with what Thomas did to begin possessions. He was assigned to inbound the ball against Clemson's press and he had only one turnover in the game.

--F Miles Plumlee has taken a dip on the offensive end in the past two games. He has taken a total of four shots from the field. After he went scoreless at North Carolina State, he had two points at Clemson. That two-game span followed the sophomore's career-high 19-point outing against Wake Forest. He has seven double-figure scoring games this season and they've all come at home.


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