Duke came to Madison Square Garden for the second time this year in a match-up with the Washington Huskies as part of the Car Quest Classic. Duke prevailed 86-80 but could very well have given this game away.
Right from the start, it was apparent that this is one of Andre Dawkins’ favourite locations. Andre came off the bench, as Coach K opted to start Tyle Thornton for a second straight game. Dawkins sweet stroke worked well and Duke found themselves leading by 14 points at the half. There was little that was wrong with the Blue Devils' game, except for Ryan Kelly being cold as ice.
The second half, however, was a different story. The very troubling aspects of Duke’s overall game were revealed by Lorenzo Romar’s Washington team, who proved they were no pushovers. Here is how I saw it:
FREE THROWS: Duke shot a total of 27/44 for 61 percent, but Mason “PlumTree” shot 2/11, or the team would have been 25/33 for 75 percent. Clearly, if the game had been closer, he could have lost the game for his team simply from the line. Washington, as they made their drive to close the game differential, focused on fouling Mason for good reason.
FOULS: Both Austin Rivers and Seth Curry fouled out. Rivers is clearly an offensive weapon, but not having him in the closing minutes is useless to the TEAM. Curry’s maturity was lost with his fouling out. Tyler Thornton, who was in the game for his defensive prowess and overall leadership at the point, remained in the game with four (4) fouls.
BASELINE: This is a factor which does not appear on the stats sheet, but proved to be as much a factor as ever. Washington did their homework and realized that both "PlumTrees" do not guard the baseline at all. The best example of just how important this is was at the 1:26 point at the end of the game when Washington scored because a "PlumTree” did not deny the baseline. This is a basic taught to all “bigs” in grammar school, but somehow it missed their radar.
Some will say that “ ... a win is a win ...” and Duke walks away with a win, but the only thing to be happy about was that Ryan Kelly found his stroke in the second half. I hope the guys do better on their mid-term exams than they did today.
Duke closes out the year with games at Home on the 19th against UNC-Greensboro and the 30th against Western Michigan. Let’s hope they find the time to work on these deficiencies.