Thursday, February 26, 2009

Duke's defense not healed yet

Duke’s defense didn’t get out to a promising start Wednesday night.

Its last four opponents had shot at least 54 percent from the field, and Maryland seemed on its way to doing the same. The Terrapins penetrated almost at will to score 28 of their 34 points and all but one of their 15 field goals in the lane in the first half.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said that wasn’t all bad.

“That means we’re taking away the three,” Krzyzewski said.
Indeed, despite shooting 53.6 percent from the field, Maryland was 0-for-3 from 3-point range in the first half, while Duke shot 5-for-12 to forge a 34-34 halftime tie.

In the second half, Maryland shot just 40.9 percent to finish at 48 percent for the game. The Terrapins did make three 3-pointers in five second-half attempts. But one came when they were playing 5-on-4 because Duke’s Nolan Smith was hurt at the other end.

Two others came on difficult shots at the end of the shot clock. Those two shots disappointed Krzyzewski.

“I tell our guys, at the end of the shot clock, a kid has to take it, so you cannot let up,” Krzyzewski said. “The coach wants him to hit it, but the coach wants him to take it. And you have to hunker down in those situations because it’s a freebie, and those are huge shots. The game could have changed there, because all of a sudden you see a couple of those go in at the end of the clocks, and you think, ‘Maybe tonight’s not the night.’ ”

Overall, Duke held Maryland to the lowest shooting percentage of any opponent in five games. That was an improvement, but it’s too soon to declare Duke’s defense healed.

Maryland point guard Greivis Vasquez scored just two points with no assists in the second half while playing just six minutes because of foul trouble. Four days earlier, he’d scored 35 with 10 assists in an overtime win over North Carolina.

The game could have turned out differently if the Terrapins’ top scorer and set-up man played most of the second half. So No. 7-ranked Duke still has something to prove with another road game coming up Saturday.

Once again, the opponent, Virginia Tech, is desperate for a marquee win over a top team to attract the attention of the committee that selects the NCAA Tournament field. The Hokies have Malcolm Delaney, who’s a skilled penetrator and scorer like Vasquez, and it’s difficult to imagine the opposing point guard getting into foul trouble in two straight games. – Ken Tysiac