Given the disappointment associated with being a Duke Basketball supporter over the last few years, it's difficult to allow myself to be overly excited about the way the Blue Devils are playing here in December.
Yet with last night's sizeable victory over the Purdue Boilermakers, there's plenty of reason for optimism in Durham. Of course all that can be squelched with just one loss.
But what accounted for Duke's, at times, dominant performance against the Boilermakers?
Was it the fact that Duke's defense was as suffocating as it needs to be? Or was it that Purdue just couldn't get the ball to actually go in the basket?
In the first several minutes of the game, the Duke defense did its work, but Purdue also missed several makeable shots. I pin that as much on a cold night for the Boilermakers as I do on the Blue Devils' defensive pressure.
But you had to be impressed with the way Duke held onto the lead and closed the game. And by that I mean the way Kyle Singler closed the game.
When I first saw Singler, he appeared to be a dime a dozen type forward, nothing more and nothing less. But he's been overwhelmingly impressive this year. Its obvious Coach K has instilled confidence in him. He's got the motor and the fire to be to Duke what Baby T is to the Tar Heels.
And the dunk. What a dunk. As Singler powered through the Purdue frontcourt for that dagger of a jam, prompting Dickie V to proverbially throw in the towel for Purdue, it felt different then the last few years It was a turning point type of moment.
You can't turn the corner on a multitude of March nightmares on Dec. 2nd, but it helps to ease the pain.
What amazes me isn't that Purdue only made two three-pointers in the game, although that's shocking in itself. But it's even more amazing that the Blue Devils only allowed them to take 13 threes all night. They average more than 21 three point attempts per game.
In that regard I was thoroughly impressed with the performance of the Blue Devils. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention how great Greg Paulus has been as the sixth man. Since his freshman year, I have disliked Paulus. I didn't like the way he conducted himself and I didn't think he was a good point guard at all.
But he played and each year, he turned more and more Duke fans against him. When Nolan Smith challenged him for the job this year, who thought it would turn out like this. Paulus moves to the bench as a senior, after starting for two years and suddenly he finds his niche as a sixth man. He was great in relief of Smith last night. That kind of depth is paramount to succeeding in March.
It seems as though the game at Cameron Indoor where the Devils survived a very tough Rhode Island team has served as a wake up call.
It seems as though Singler, Jon Scheyer, and Smith are cornerstone players for this era of the program.
It seems as though the Blue Devils have it all figured out.
We'll see if it still seems that way in March.
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