I thought my eyes were deceiving me last night when my local channel switched from the thrilling Xavier- Wake Forest overtime game to the Clemson-Duke game. The score read 10 to 25 Duke leading with 5 minutes to go in the half. I thought they had switched to a JV girls basketball game by accident. Nope that defiantly wasn’t the case. That was the correct score.
As I thought about it more, I began to realize I shouldn’t have been surprised at all. The majority of Duke games have been low scoring this season, for the other team that is. Duke average 85.9 point per game, which is the sixth highest ppg total in the country. While on the defensive side Duke only allows an average of 59.5 points per game, a big reason why they are 12-1 on the year so far.
The Blue Devils have shown at times they can be an explosive offensive team while other times they have gone ice cold from the floor. Despite their inconsistent offense, they can always rely on their defense.
Duke probably has one of the best half court defenses in the country. This was most evident last night as Duke only had 30 points at halftime yet they still had a comfortable 18 point lead. Duke never let the Tigers offensive get into a rhythm as they only shot 5 for 30 from the field and also included an 8 minute scoring drought. This coming from a team that averages 78.3 ppg and features future NBA star Trevor Booker.
Defense has always been a staple of success for the Blue Devils. That’s how Coach Mike Krzyzewski likes to play. He likes to play fast and hard with tenacious defense. This year’s team is much better on defense than the past couple of years. Post play has really been lacking for the Blue Devils in the last couple years.
But this year with the emergence of the Plumlee brothers and significant improvement from Brian Zoubek, Duke has a presence in the paint especially on the defense side. I can imagine it boosts your confidence on defense when you know you got a 7’1” and 6’ 10” guy behind you.
This year’s team though is more reliant on defense than past teams. There is no Shane Battier or JJ Redick on this team who can completely put the game in their hands and win. Although Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer, arguable the best backcourt in the country, have really been putting up big numbers on the offensive side. Smith is averaging 18.4 ppg and Scheyer is averaging 18.8 ppg and 6.4 assists per game.
In the end though, the success of Duke rises and falls with their defense. They may not be as athletic as Kansas, Michigan State or Texas. But they might be able to defend them. And that makes Duke a dangerous team especially come tournament time. Because just like the old saying goes, “Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships”.