Monday, March 9, 2009

Krzyzewski shortens Duke's bench

CHAPEL HILL – You know it’s almost the middle of March when daffodils are blooming, you’re comfortable in your house without the furnace running, and Duke’s bench gets shorter than Bob Knight’s temper.

The three reserves who played during Duke’s 79-71 loss to North Carolina on Sunday totaled 19 minutes.

All five starters logged at least 31 minutes, with Kyle Singler and Elliot Williams playing 38 apiece and Jon Scheyer 39. Coach Mike Krzyzewski seemed perfectly comfortable with that after the game.

He said he treated the game as if it were a meeting with a high-level opponent in the NCAA Tournament. He said he believes that despite officials’ denials, the media timeouts for Duke-North Carolina last longer than those in ordinary regular season games.

That would make them like the media timeouts in the NCAA Tournament, which allow starters to rest more. That's why Krzyzewski stuck with the starters longer, a strategy that he hinted will continue in March.

“I thought overall our guys handled the conditioning (Sunday),” Krzyzewski said. “It wasn’t bad.”

Whenever guard Nolan Smith is able to return from the concussion he suffered Feb. 25, Duke will have another option off the bench. But it sounds as if Krzyzewski plans to continue to rely heavily on starters Singler, Williams, Scheyer, Gerald Henderson and Lance Thomas, particularly in the NCAA Tournament.

That’s probably a smart thing when you consider that Brian Zoubek, Greg Paulus and Dave McClure combined for zero points and two field goal attempts in 19 minutes off the bench Sunday.

Duke’s starters say they can handle their abundant minutes. Scheyer proved it Sunday with 24 points on 7-for-7 from the field, plus five assists and four steals without a turnover.

“I’m in really good shape,” Scheyer said. “I felt really good at the end of last season. So moving forward, fatigue or any of that’s not even an issue for me.”

The only thing that makes Singler tired is being asked about how he wore down last year at this time as a freshman.

“To be honest, I couldn’t tell you how I felt last year at this point. . . .I feel good right now,” Singler said. “My body is holding up. Having a year under your belt helps.”

Singler faded in the second half Sunday, but totaled 35 second-half points in the previous two games – hardly the mark of a guy with tired legs.

One of the benefits of Krzyzewski’s late discovery of Williams is that the freshman is –well – fresh. He was a little-used reserve when Krzyzewski suddenly put him in the starting lineup on Feb. 19 at St. John’s.

Williams said that because of that, he has plenty of energy at a time of year when many first-year players struggle. He’s going to need it, because Krzyzewski sounds as if he wants his best players on the court as much as possible in the NCAA Tournament.

“Our bench will help us,” Krzyzewski said. “But the story of this game was not the bench. It was how the starters could play that amount of minutes and still execute and do the things they needed to do to win. Because that’s how you have to win in the NCAA Tournament, unless you have this string of outstanding players.” – Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

its too bad zoubek is such a disappointment. i hate to see highly touted recruits bomb the way he has. i think weve all finally figured out paulus just isnt able to keep up anymore. however i do like mcclures contributions. theyre all great kids and i wish them well in life, but it wont be in the NBA.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to Smith getting on the court again. We needed his speed last night to complement E. Williams. In terms of the bench, 5-star big men Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly will more than make up for losing paulus and mcclure.

Anonymous said...

why are most of these articles about duke? who cares about duke and how great coach k is? paulus may be a great kid, but he's a terrible basketball player. he is the king of flops on the court...