NC State 71
February 14, 2002. Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Sometimes a well-run system can compensate for a lack of talent, size or athleticism. That was certainly the case in this game’s first fifteen minutes, as State used a disciplined Princeton-style offense to utterly baffle the Devils defensively. I never thought I’d utter the words, “Duke had trouble keeping up with Herb Sendek’s offensive gameplan,” but there you go. The Princeton offense is built on lots of picks, sharp cuts and back-door passes. It’s ideal for a team with a big man who can move without the ball, pass, screen and shoot. Ilian Evtimov was born to play in this sort of attack. At 6-7, he can’t jump or run very fast, but he has a solid build and moves as well without the ball as anyone I’ve ever seen. This offense is great at punishing teams that overplay on the wings and leave the middle open for periods of time (like Duke), especially if the defenders don’t do a good job at switching and rotating (like Duke in the first five minutes). Defense affected offense for awhile as well, because the Devils were playing as individuals, with each man trying to bring Duke back on their own instead of finding the best shot for his team.
Eventually, Duke got its act together in a big way. They adjusted the defense first by tightening up on the switches and forcing State to make more passes. When that happened, Duke got a little more aggressive in the passing lanes and started tipping some balls. That fired up Duke’s transition game and really got the Devils going. Interestingly, Williams and Boozer were pulled early in the game for their defense and replaced by Dan Ewing and…Reggie Love. It was a clear sign that Duke needed more pressure from the guards and more hustle in the post, and both players delivered it. Lesson learned, Jason and Carlos returned to the game and raised their level of play rather dramatically.
The biggest adjustment Duke made on offense was to abandon the perimeter game and concentrate on breaking down Pack guard Archie Miller off the dribble and then dish to either a cutting wingman or Boozer. Carlos didn’t get nearly enough touches in the early going, especially since the Pack didn’t have anyone with the size or strength to stop him. With the passes he was getting and his very soft hands, Carlos was unstoppable. He also had a great night on the boards with 3 stickback scores. At one point in the second half, he scored 10 straight points en route to a career-high 32 points.
Duke’s level of offensive execution was frightening in the second half-- 69% from the floor, 12-13 from the foul line. Duke was -3 in rebounding margin at the end of the first half and was +8 by the end of the game. 16 of Duke’s 22 field goals in the half came from assists and 2 more came from rebound baskets. Jason and Chris ran the spread offense with ease, scoring virtually every time. Meanwhile, the Pack were missing free throws and easy shots and digging themselves into a bigger hole. Duke took advantage of this and really went for the throat.
State started the game with a 13-6 run in the first five minutes of play. Most of that was Marcus Melvin getting great passes from Evtimov, Julius Hodge and Archie Miller, beating Duke with backdoor passes. It didn’t hurt that Duke was shooting too quickly and giving them all sorts of opportunities to score in the open court. The nadir of this was Williams and Dunleavy getting confused on a switch and Melvin taking advantage by swooping in for a layup. Duke’s only scores were a bit higher on the degree of difficulty scale: a pull-up jumper from 19’ by Dahntay Jones, a scoop shot with a man on him by Mike Dunleavy, and a tough drive by Jason Williams. Coach K responded by pulling Boozer and Williams and inserting Reggie Love and Dan Ewing. The result was an 11-2 run that gave Duke the lead.
The run started with Duhon penetrating and kicking out to Ewing for a three on the wing. Jones then drew a charge from Hodge, and Duke got a foul shot from Love on the other end. The tough Grundy got into the lane and flicked away one of those floaters of his to get a score, but Dunleavy drew a foul and hit both shots. A State turnover led to Dunleavy feeding the ball to Boozer inside for his first score. Carlos had missed his first shot of the game, but wouldn’t miss any more…and he wound up taking a lot of shots. Williams got a steal and was fouled, making 1. Ewing rebounded a miss, then set up a gorgeous give-and-go with Carlos Boozer. Both men were on the baseline, with Ewing in the corner. Ewing drove, quickly passed the ball to Carlos who pretended to post up, and then quickly caught the pass that Carlos threw to score. Simply beautiful basketball as Duke had the lead back at 17-15 with about twelve minutes to go.
The next three minutes were quite even as State took back the lead with a 10-7 run. State was still having some success taking Duke off the dribble and did a much better job making sharper passess. Hodge stole the ball from Duhon and got Grundy an easy basket. Duke countered with Williams driving and hitting a short jumper, Duhon passing inside to Boozer, and Williams finding Jones for a dunk off an inbounds play. Duke continued to pick up their intensity, particularly on the offensive boards, where they would get 5 stickback baskets in the last eight minutes of the half.
Boozer got things going by sticking back a missed Dunleavy three to give Duke a 26-25 lead. Williams followed up by going to the glass after a Duhon miss. Grundy kept his team close with more drives, never allowing Duke to really break out. Ewing came back in and dished to Horvath and Boozer for baskets inside, while Duhon got a steal and passed ahead to Boozer on the break, who slammed it down and was fouled. He missed the free throw but Duke had its biggest lead at 34-29. Grundy cut the lead to 3, but you could sense that Duke was on a roll on the offensive side of things. Jones drove in for a power layup, while Williams picked Grundy’s pocket and scored on a Duhon feed from a 2-on-1. Evtimov was fouled and hit 2 freebies, but Jones went hard to the boards and tipped in his miss.
After that play, Jones yelled exuberantly at no one in particular, shouting “Let’s go!” afterwards. For this display, he was given a technical foul, which made everyone unhappy. To some degree, he must blame himself, because his earlier taunting of the Clemson bench easily could have been worth a technical, and with the new emphasis on sportsmanship, it’s clear that he’s become a target. State hit both tech shots and then scored on the ensuing possession, cutting the lead to 40-37 with under three minutes to go in the half.
Duke didn’t get mad, they got even and continued to pound the boards. Boozer rebounded a Ewing miss to fire up the team and Williams drew a foul, hitting both shots. After another Grundy jumper cut the lead to 5 again, Williams went off a pick and sank his first three of the game. Sherrill missed a three and Dunleavy snagged the board. He was about to pass it downcourt to a wide-open Ewing, but K had called timeout first. That was fine, since Duke wanted to hold the ball for the last shot. That wound up being a Williams three that missed, but Boozer caught it with one hand near the basket and flipped it back up before the clock ran down, scoring. That gave Duke their first double digit lead at 49-39 and a lot of momentum for the second half.
Duke struck right away with Dunleavy passing to Boozer inside for an easy score. State exchanged baskets with Duke in the first minute, with Evtimov and Grundy both driving for scores, the latter matching a Williams drive. The Devils then went on a 7-0 run sparked by Duhon. First, he drove baseline, put up a shot that went in, and got fouled. Evtimov then missed 2 free throws, a crucial miscue that Duke took advantage of. Duhon quickly found Dunleavy for a layup on a cut, and then hit a cutting Boozer for another score. With seventeen minutes left, Duke suddenly led 60-43. With Grundy playing through the pain of tendinitis, State would soon be struggling to find ways to score.
But not quite yet. State scored 4 in a row, including a runout by Grundy on a Duhon turnover. Duke responded with a 13-2 run that broke the game wide open, spearheaded by Dunleavy’s resurgent play. He caught an inbounds pass from Williams, dribbled twice and turned around near the basket for a score–much like a center would. Mike then drove after a State miss and passed to Duhon on the wing, he sank a three. Everyone could feel the momentum swinging in Duke’s direction as a State turnover led to Duhon driving, missing and Dahntay flying in after him for a spectacular rebound slam. Another State turnover led to Dunleavy tipping in a Williams miss. Boozer got into the act by being fouled going up (after yet another State turnover) and scoring on a Duhon feed. With thirteen minutes to go in the half, Duke led 73-48.
State wasn’t finished and responded with a 7-2 run when Coach K sat Williams and Boozer, ending with an Evtimov three. Williams promptly started a 6-0 run, dishing to Dunleavy for a reverse and Boozer for a power-up. Duhon then passed to a cutting Jason for a 79-53 Duke lead with eleven minutes left. The Pack had one last run in them, going on another 7-2 run. Sherrill scored on a layup but was matched by Williams dumping it off to Boozer for a dunk. A Duhon charge led to immense center Jordan “Not Bootsy” Collins hitting an 18’ jumper. NC State had cut the lead back to 81-60 with over nine minutes left. Still an imposing lead, but stranger things have happened.
Duke put their foot down and this time State didn’t get up again. Ewing drove and delivered an absurd behind-the-back pass to Boozer, who scored and was fouled. Duke then went into its delay offense, scoring 4 straight times from the foul line after going into its 2-3 motion delay set. Boozer came out of the game at the eight minute mark, while Williams joined him a couple of minutes later after dishing to Dahntay for a dunk and getting a steal and runout. That put Duke up 92-63 with six minutes to go.
Things proceeded to get uglier from there, as the Pack would only score 8 more points. Ewing hit a couple of more threes and threw another pass to Jones for a dunk. Buckner came in at the four minute mark, along with Mark Causey. The subs continued to play hard and kept the energy going. This was not an insignificant victory. The Wolfpack are a tough team that had dismantled Virginia without Hodge and a legitimate NCAA contender. Duke simply exploited their matchups and made State look bad that way. More than that, this game meant Duke held serve against Maryland–with the next game likely going a long way in deciding the regular season race.
Rotating on defense. This was really only applicable in the first five minutes or so, but Duke looked utterly lost on their switches. State was either cutting to get either baskets or going baseline with no one there to stop them. Once Duke fixed this, they were in business.
Shot selection. Duke missed 5 consecutive jumpers in the early going, with most of them taken off the dribble. The Devils were doing too much one-on-one stuff, which made them much easier to defend. When they started making the extra pass, State couldn’t keep up.
Playing the passing lanes. Duke had 6 steals in the last thirteen minutes of the half, resulting in 8 Duke points. This was practically the entire scoring margin for Duke. The steals came because Duke took advantage of State’s passing and forced them to make more efficient passes, and when State got sloppy, the Devils took advantage of them.
Valuing the ball. With Grundy and Miller, State didn’t really have the personnel for a lot of ball pressure, but Duke still did a fine job of staying under control and making the right pass most of the time. There were a few miscues here and there, but Duke’s overall assist to turnover ratio of 23:9 was impressive.
Exploiting matchups. Offensively, this was the key to Duke’s success. State stayed in a man-to-man defense the whole night and refused to double- team Boozer, so that meant that Duhon and Williams simply had to be patient enough to get him the ball. Once that happened, Boozer’s soft hands and nearly 50 pound weight advantage did the rest. 4. Perimeter defense. Here’s your stat of the game: NC State’s tough guards were 9-19 from the field, 0-5 from three and had 10 turnovers. Throw in backups Scooter Sherrill & Clifford Crawford and that’s 11-25, 0-7, and 14. It’s worth noting that most of the production came from Grundy, who had 16 points on 8-11 shooting. Duke took away State’s outside weapons in a way they couldn’t manage to do in Raleigh.
More at http://www.dukeupdate.com/Rob_C/20020214_nc_state.html
I’m not to proud to learn from the best.