The first round of the Duke-Maryland battle in the 2010-11 season was much different than the past two affairs at Cameron Indoor Stadium when the Blue Devils routed the Terrapins by 21 points last season and 41 points the season before. While the Blue Devils pulled out a 71-64 win on Sunday to extend their winning streak to 25 games, the meeting had a similar feel to the game when Duke suffered a 79-72 upset to Maryland last March which happened to be its last loss. These are certain observations and thoughts I took away from this game:
- In contrary to what I discussed last week about Duke being in “good hands” with Nolan Smith at the point, this game showed how important Kyrie Irving could and would be to the Devils down the stretch. Even more so, it demonstrated how teams are beginning to focus on stopping Smith as a key to stopping Duke. ”They did everything possible to take Nolan out of the game,” Mike Krzyzewski said.
- The bench will be just as important to Duke’s success as it has in the past. Seth Curry filled in with possibly his best game to date as a Blue Devil and freshman guard Tyler Thornton came up big when Duke needed a spark. While Curry has had three games when the sophomore transfer from Liberty has scored more than the contest versus Maryland, his 12 points against the Terrapins were crucial to Duke rallying from a 38-32 deficit in the second half. Thornton, who didn’t touch the floor against Miami last week, delivered the type of defensive grittiness Duke has had in the past when he had four steals and two points while also drawing two Maryland charging fouls in 12 minutes of second-half play to fuel an 11-0 run to help put the game away. This bench contribution will be critical to Duke’s success, especially without Irving.
- Duke has to get tougher inside and develop better post defensive technique. Duke essentially had no answer to Maryland 6-foot-10, 265-pound sophomore center Jordan Williams, who had 23 points and 13 rebounds for his ninth double-double in a row. The Plumlee brothers were outmuscled by Williams all game and it was an example of how Duke needs to have that toughness inside like the way it had last season with Greg Zoubek. Who knows? Maybe the Plumlees should grow beards a la Zoubek during the championship run.
- Coach K sure can coach. I know this sounds like a “duh” statement, but Krzyzewski exhibited why he is a Hall-of-Famer when Duke was getting out-played by the Terrapins at the beginning of the second half. He called a time-out after Maryland had built a 38-32 lead, gave the team a “stern talking to,” went to a smaller, quicker line-up with Thornton and Curry in the lineup and called Kyle Singler’s number to seal the game. It’s another reason why this team has the makings of another title winner.
- Finally, Maryland showed why, at 10-5 overall and 0-2 in conference play, the ACC will eventually regain the respect around the nation that it’s had over the years. Critics might say the ACC is weak this year, but the Terps really exhibited a team with quality players at each position.
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