Sloppy Devils Survive St. Johns 83-76

Brian Horaceblog, featured, General Information, Results/Thoughts3 Comments

Quotes like: “I am not pleased with today. I am not pleased with today one bit. One bit.” and  “I’m going to read all my books and see what I’m missing because there’s something missing. It’s not resonating with our team,” are things fans are used to hearing after a team loses, not when a team wins, but when a Coach K sees his team nearly give a game away, at home, those are the appropriate responses.  Duke got the crows and noise it wanted, and the end result was a win, but the journey and process that led to that win was flawed and uninspiring.

Duke used a first half of hot shooting, and dominating in the middle and on the boards to beat back a hungry St. Johns team.  Duke was in the lead at the half (45-29), and probably should have lead by more.  Duke utilized its size advantage to the tune of 18 points and 18 boards by its bigs.  Mason Plumlee in particular had 12 boards in the first half alone.  Plumlee finished the game  with 17 boards and 15 points, but was underutilized in the second half.

Duke was able to push the lead to 22 in the early moments of the second half, but as well as Duke controlled the game in the first half they were equally as bad in the final 17 minutes of the game.  Duke allowed the young Red Storm team to trim the lead to 8 points, and you could watch the confidence grow and grow with each mistake that Duke made that the Storm turned into points.  And while Duke would pull out the 7 point victory, 83-76, the lead was tenuous at best, getting down to 4 at one point.  Several times in both halfs Coach K called timeouts to exhort and urge his team to play together, to play tough.  Time and time again Duke was caught napping on  defense, flat-footed and passive.  As a fan, the timidity on display defensively at Cameron, in front of a raucous crowd, was frustrating, and it read on the faces of the coaches.

Duke was able to mask its lapses in the first half with good three point shooting, but the mistakes were compounded by the sloppy play on offense in the second.  Unforced errors, selfishness, and a lack of focus were abound in the second stanza, and Duke barely overcame them.  Taking nothing away from St. Johns, of course, who came into Cameron Indoor with a team of freshmen and nearly made a game of this.  Despite the absence of Steve Lavin, there is a capable and experienced coaching staff.  They were steady and, despite their lack of size, constantly out-hustled and frankly out-hearted Duke.  This is still a team in turmoil and, in as many years as I have been watching Duke, I have never seen Coach K as frustrated and perplexed and flat out angry at his team.  Krzyzewski has built the majority of his teams with a defense-first mindset, and this team isn’t on par with that ideal.  Now, 21 games into the season, time is running out to manifest that ideal.
Positives:

Free throw shooting – Duke was 37-42 for 76%
Rebounding edge – 39-36
Balanced scoring – MP1 with 15, Kelly with 16, Rivers 12, Dawkins 14.

Negatives:

2nd half 3 point shooting – 1 of 8 for 12.5%
Turnovers – 15 to only 14 assists
Outscored by 11 in the second half

20 things that I noticed in no particular order, just musings and annoyances, thoughts:

1. No intensity, no emotion.
2. Not valuing the ball.
3. No communication.
4. Post passes sloppy.
5. Not making the intelligent play.
6. Bad clock management.
7. SLOPPY!!
8. No focus.
9. No boxing out.
10. Rivers needs to give up the ball on the break or not lead it.
11. Fouling at the worst times. With 440 on the clock Duke allowed 4 free throws instead of forcing St. Johns to use clock.
12. Too many layups.
13. Dawkins uses his hands on defense to mask his lack of quickness, needs to move his feet more.
14. Quinn Cook is the only true point guard.
15. Mason needed more touches in the 2nd half.
16. Duke sometimes plays robotic, thinking too much.
17. Rivers needs to learn to integrate into the offense.
18. Rivers and Dawkins scare me when they dribble toward the lane.
19. Can’t coach passion, just need to have it.
20. Who is the leader?

BOX SCORE