Wins over Georgia Tech and Temple may not scream “ooh, wow, look out, here comes Duke,” but a closer look at these two opponents are an insight into how Duke is starting to find that patented Coach K-groove at just the right time.
First, GT may not be the Tech of old, but they do have a player who has bolted up many NBA draft boards, including the famed WalterFootball.com index. Soon after Iman Shumpert dropped 30 points in a UNC and then came within three steals of recording a quadruple-double in a late January win over Virginia Tech (the Yellow Jackets’ first triple-double in more than two decades), the website said this about the 6-foot-5 combo player:
“Shumpert is finally starting to tap into that potential as he has limited his turnovers and improved his shot selection which had been two knocks against the Oak Park, Ill. native. If he chooses to forgo his final year of eligibility, he would be a borderline first-round pick as his game translates well to the next level.”
Entering the game against Duke, Shumpert had scored 17 points or more in five straight contests, including a 27-point night on 9-of-18 shooting in the rematch against Virginia Tech. Coach K assigned Tyler Thornton with the duties of marking Shumpert and the freshman guard did a fabulous job, harassing Tech’s best player into a 4-16 shooting game on the way to 13 point night.
So, defensively the Blue Devils proved very capable of shutting down an NBA-caliber player when necessary, considering Duke will probably face two or three teams with professional ready ballers in the tourney.
Secondly, Temple is one of those eight or nine seed type teams that Duke (if the Blue Devils are a 1 seed, which they should be) will meet in the second round of the NCAA’s. While the Owls were playing without Scottie Randall–who missed his second straight game with an injured right foot after having averaged 18 points in his previous six games–Temple is a team coached by one of the best X’s and O’s guy in the business, Fran Dunphy.
For about a half, the Owls did their dandest in putting a scare into Duke’s 11-year winning streak against non-ACC teams at Cameron as Temple frustrated Duke with tough team defense that in particular seemed to bother Smith, the ACC’s leading scorer who was held to 5-of-17 shooting.
But the Cameron Crazies finally had their wait for Superman ended when Kyle Singler re-emerged and broke out of a slump by scoring 28 points, and Duke shined in its return to the top spot in the national rankings by beating No. 24 Temple 78-61.
Singler had been Clark Kent-like over his past few performances, as the 16-point scorer for his career was held to 3-of-17 shooting two weeks ago by rival North Carolina. Most recently, he had a career-worst 2-point outing last week against Virginia, and was just 5 of 14 last time out against Georgia Tech.
But against the Owls, Singler equaled a career high for field goals while going 10 of 19 in his most productive game since matching a career high with 30 points at Oregon on Nov. 27.
One other thing of note in these past two games: the starting five of Singler, Smith, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry have dominated the minutes for Coach K. The only other player who has reached double digits in minutes in the past two games has been Thornton. It looks like Coach K has found his main men for the tourney.
About the Author
Written by Chris Girandola
I currently write for the St. Petersburg Times, MLB.com, the Naples News, Demand Studios, LiveStrong, Fuel Football, Fuel Basketball and Fuel Football.