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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Duke 84, Florida State 81: Six thoughts

Posted by on Wed, Mar 4, 2009 at 2:23 PM

CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/ DURHAM—Last night's Duke victory at home over Florida State was a roller coaster from start to finish: The crowd roared for the first three minutes, honoring seniors Greg Paulus, David McClure and Martynas Pocius during their last game at Cameron. But the euphoria wore off quickly, as Duke headed into the locker room down by six and with center Lance Thomas already down via an early ankle injury. But with the help of explosive performances by Elliot Williams and Gerald Henderson, Duke rallied back, giving its seniors a three-point cap to their careers.

1: Another half of folly, confusion and cold, cold shooting. The Devils of 2009 have stopped playing 40-minute games. Last night, they recovered from a fairly miserable first half, during which they shot just 31 percent from the field, to overcome a high-ankle sprain and a broken nose from big men Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek, respectively, to win by three. More on this half-wise predicament soon, as it could be a major problem Sunday against UNC and in the ACC and NCAA tournaments.

2: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski took his jacket off last night with about 13 minutes remaining in the second half. Soon thereafter, his team took its first lead in the game since about the same time in the first half. He spent the rest of the game either standing at the sidelines, directing traffic, or kneeling near the scorer's table, silently watching. At one point, as his team headed into a huddle during a timeout he even smiled because one of his adjustments had worked. That's right, a mid-game smile from Coach K. And late in the game, he jumped up and down, elated at the prospect of the tough win and his team's slashing, precise play.

3: Asked why he'd been more emotional these last few games, Coach K joked it mostly had to do with the vitamins he's been taking and that he hoped to spend the off-season doing advertisements for the company. More probable reasons for his emotional response last night? 1: Senior Night. 2: Last home game of the home season. 3: If UNC beats Virginia Tech (ACC: 7-7) tonight (and they should), they'll move to 12-3. If Duke had lost to FSU, they'd have no chance for a tie at No. 1 in the ACC, even with a win at Carolina Sunday. With a loss against both and a Wake Forest win versus Clemson Sunday, they'd drop to third.

4: Duke was out-rebounded throughout the game, but three tip-outs by Brian Zoubek late in the second half gave Duke second chances and takeaways it needed badly. Zoubek only scored two, but his defensive effort against a strong suite of Seminole bigmen didn't go unnoticed by Coach K, who later commented that it was Zoubek's best showing yet.

5: J.P. Giglio at The News & Observer makes a salient point about last night's officiating crew, which was largely unfamiliar with Cameron and the current squad of Devils and Seminoles. Touch fouls and missed travel calls abounded, and both of Florida State's questionable technical foul calls provided big blocks for the visiting team's momentum. For my money, Solomon Alabi's dunk should have been just that—two FSU points.

6: The signs of Senior Night: "7 years of grad school/ 115 games at Cameron/ 1 Ph.D." And during David McClure's closing speech after the game, the crowd showered him with chants of "Five more years." He laughed and replied, "I wish." With four points, McClure—who fouled out after a few questionable calls—also managed to boost his career and season scoring averages slightly with two field goals.

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