Firstly congratulations to Coach K on surpassing his mentor Bobby Knight and becoming the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Mens Basketball history.Â An amazing accomplishment and another facet in the huge monument of a legacy that Coach K is sculpting. The quest for 903 has passed and as Coach K said now he can focus on building this team, and getting the most out of them.
As for this game, as the title indicates, a win is a beautiful thing, even when it’s not a thing of beauty. This game was full of mistakes, chippiness and breakdowns of fundamentals–but it was a win. It was the kind of win that should teach this team quite a bit about not only handling pressure but persevering. Duke fought basket for basket with Michigan State for the entire first half and it looked like this game would go down to the wire. With Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry keeping Duke step for step with Michigan State. Dawkins lit up MSG with a three point barrage that would make J.J. Redick stand and cheer, going 6-10 from 3 point range, 8 of 15 overall with 4 free throws in 4 chances for 26 points.Â That’s a monster game when your team only scores 74. Dawkins also brought it on the defensive end, D’ing up and gathering 4 steals and 3 rebounds. He was definitely the load carrier for the Devils along with Seth Curry. Dawkins was in a fantastic rhythm, his release was quick and effective. He’s the quickest I’ve seen in a long time, upon receiving the pass he is set and ready to fire in an efficient and fluid motion. It’s fun to watch. I was hoping to see a big game out of Andre at some point in the early going of the season. He can carry that scoring load when as last night Austin Rivers and others were struggling to get shots off. Duke was able to build the lead to 20 in the second half before they let up and MSU started to chip way augmented by silly errors and turnovers by Duke. The lead shrank but in the end the Devils were able to hold on by 5.
Seth Curry was as usual smooth as silk scoring 20 points and dishing out 4 assists, he and Dawkins were the glue that kept Duke in this game. The other bright spot in this game was Ryan Kelly, who was 3 for 3 in the game with 2 3-pointers and 6 for 6 from the line for 14 points, he was all over the floor as expected and was the most consistent big in the game, albeit mostly from the perimeter, if Duke can get him dialed in on the defensive end he may end up being a starter over one of the Plumlees.
That brings me to the Plumlees. Definitely a forgettable performance by Miles and Mason in this game. On the offensive end neither broke double figures and Miles only scoring one point and garnering a technical foul. Not even the rebound totals were great, Miles was only able to pull 4 and Mason 5. There were an array of bonehead plays by both, and I’m not sure if it was the gravity of the situation or if they were focusing too much on the defensive end (they did a good job of keeping MSU bigs from taking over the game). Mason did have one sick assist to Ryan Kelly who cut to the basket and was able to get a dunk of of a back door type pass from Mason, it was probably Masons highlight of the season so far, Duke needs to exploit that post to post pass more often, the Plumlees and Kelly are made for it.
Austin Rivers spent much of the night being frustrated, he wasn’t able to get his shot off and against MSU Rivers was 1-7 and was never able to get into an offensive rhythm and as streaky a shooter as he is, that is a must for him. What he hopefully understands is that scoring is only one piece of the game, filling that stat sheet with assists and rebounds are just as important, unfortunately with foul trouble on top of being ineffective on offense he wasn’t able to stay on the floor as much, but these are all lessons that are much easier swallowed with a win, although a loss can usually punctuate them more sternly.
Duke definitely was deficient in a few key areas, one being assists, Duke is best when its moving the ball around, and either opening up the interiorÂ off of reversals or freeing shooters off of drive and kick, MSU was having none of that and took Duke out of what it wanted to do. Duke was able to play MSU’s game and still come out victorious, even with losing the rebounding battle (although it was really close), even with only 8 assists,Â and with virtually no inside game.Â So as ugly as the game was Duke was able to hold on, lessons a plenty to be learned from this one but for now just enjoy. It’s good to be (K)ing.