Clipping Their Wings: Duke's Defense Grounds Miami RedHawks

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Clipping Their Wings: Duke's Defense Grounds Miami RedHawks
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Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler last season. So far in 2010, these two have the Blue Devils pointed in the right direction.

Both teams walked on the court 1-0. Forty minutes later, only one stood undefeated.

The Duke Blue Devils once again asserted their dominance, dropping 79 points on the visiting Miami (OH) RedHawks en route to a 34-point win that wasn't as close as the score indicated.

Guard Seth Curry paced Duke, netting 17 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including shooting 75 percent from beyond the arc. Kyrie Irving (13), Nolan Smith (10) and Mason Plumlee (10) also eclipsed the double-digit mark in the points column for the Blue Devils.

However, while Curry certainly impressed with his precise shooting, and Irving once again had Duke fans salivating at his potential, the real star of the evening came not from any one player, but rather from a concept that only a true team can accomplish: Defense.

As the old saying goes, defense wins championships, and, based on what Duke put on display Tuesday night, it has the defense to compete with just about any other team that may stand in its way.

Granted it was Miami (OH), a team Duke has never faced and a team that has not beaten a ranked team since Boston College in 2001.

However, that does not change the fact that Duke completely outclassed and out-manned the visiting RedHawks at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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Miami shot a paltry 34 percent from the field and 24 percent from downtown. Those numbers are a tad bit inflated, however, as Miami's shooting improved when Duke's scrubs were in the game.

In other words, had Duke played its first or second rotation for the entire 40 minutes, Miami's shooting percentage could certainly have been under 30 percent.

The only Miami player to make a dent in the stat sheet was forward Nick Winbush, who dropped 14 on the Blue Devils. Every other RedHawk scored no more than six points.

Duke also had 10 steals on the night and out-rebounded Miami 43 to 27, with 11 coming on the offensive glass.

In all, it was another impressive performance from the Blue Devils, who are doing their best to ensure that nobody second-guesses their No. 1 ranking.

And while as of right now it's certainly tough to do so, the game against Miami wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination.

For starters, Duke converted a mere 67.7 percent of its free throws (21-31), a number that must improve. Duke also turned the ball over nine times, a number that has to come down.

Championship-caliber teams don't have an assist-to-turnover ratio near one; especially against teams of Miami's caliber.

Another concern was the play of Miles Plumlee, who, after struggling against Princeton several nights ago, was out of the starting lineup and didn't do much to convince onlookers that wasn't the right move. He finished his night with three points and three rebounds.

It's not the points that are concerning, but it's the rebounding numbers. If Duke is to succeed this season, Miles will need to dominate defensively and on the glass.

Like Brian Zoubek last season, it won't matter if Miles averages only four or five points a game. All he needs to do is be an imposing force in the paint.

So far, he hasn't done that against competition significantly less imposing than the kind Duke will face later on this season. His talent is great and his potential is there, there's no denying that. However, it needs to be refined into some sort of consistency.

With all that in mind, however, it is hard to complain about the performance Duke put on Tuesday evening.

The defense was everywhere, the energy was high, and, after a slow start shooting the ball, Duke heated up, ending the game shooting 40 percent from three.

It was another solid all-around performance, one that will have the pollsters reaffirming their selection as Duke as the top-ranked team in the land.

Duke will take the floor again Friday at 8:30 p.m. when the Colgate Raiders (0-2) visit Durham.

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