The team must have been very tired going in today, yet the rotations were really minimized. With that said, I think our defensive effort for most of the game was excellent. Tyler really had a great game as defensive stopper on Green. He also hit a couple of threes. Seth was also great defensively and played a really smart game. His scoring late in the game came at critical times. Austin was clearly tired but he never let off the throttle and kept going into the defense and getting fouled. He was a little off on his foul shooting, but it still was enough to keep us in the game. He is a big problem for other teams and no one has figured a way to totally stop him. Ryan played very well. I thought he picked up a couple of questionable fouls, but you have to accept some of that in a highly contested game. Miles also played big for us. We were a little slow on our defensive rebounds and were giving up too many offensive bounds. All that seemed to change late in the game as both Miles and Mason really hustled and got the crucial rebounds for us. Andre and Quinn didn't get much time, as the others were doing so well. Josh got a cut near his eye and didn't come back. I assume it took stitches and he may have seemed a little woozy, so they didn't bring him back. Have to keep and eye on that situation.
Give VT credit, they played with passion and kept pace with Duke. I really liked the play by play and color today. ESPN could learn a lot by listening to the guys that called our game today.
I want to give Duke a huge break in this game for a lot of effort and energy stats. I know the commentator harped a lot on rest and "tired legs" for Duke, but this is not like when Lenny Elmore does it. I talked about this in the in game thread, but it's worth mentioning again. Va Tech had just about every single intangible and physical advantage you could have. Physically, Duke had one day of rest to travel in from Florida, while Va Tech had three days rest to come in from Blacksburg. Going back further, Duke had a trip that went Boston-Durham-Tallahassee-Durham in just 7 days, while Tech, while Tech had 2 home games before this in the last 8 days. Also, Duke had to go with a 3 man big guy rotation with Hairston's injury. This was a game where they really could have used him in spurts to give the other guys more rest. That's a huge physical advantage. Intangibly, Duke came off an emotional revenge win against a team it beat by 15 on the road and Tech was coming off a tough rivalry loss (which definitely has its own emotional toll), but had the revenge factor themselves. With the exception of Va Tech's recent in-state rivalry game, that's just about every physical and intangible advantage a team can have, not to mention that the game went an extra 5 minutes. So for those reasons, it's hard to criticize things like poor shooting, missing a lot of free throws early in OT, giving up a ton of offensive boards (including one that could have lost the game on the last possession), and allowing Va Tech to dominate the 50-50 ball battle.
Given these circumstances, there were some things that really impressed me. I thought the effort was great on defense compared to offense, especially in the first half. This is a team that all year has seemed to be a little more interested in offense because they're better at it, but they clearly gave what little energy they had to the defensive end. Give Tyler Thornton all the credit in the world for that. He did a great job disrupting plays, drawing charges, and helping to create turnovers, and it really rubbed off on the team. As the game went on, the team got more and more aggressive, with Rivers really going at the bucket hard, with Curry and even Miles getting in on the driving as well. They really hung in there mentally after a tough two, what appeared to be a missed foul on Thornton, and a stupid bank three put them down with not a lot of time left. In the last minute they got it down to 1, forced a turnover, tied it, and played good initial D on the last possession (though they did give up the open second shot). In OT, they almost never settled, going into full attack mode. Except for the last two by Curry with just .2 left, all of the free throws in OT were shot by Rivers and the Plumlees, who are Duke's worst from the line among regulars. They were able to shoot about their average as a group, 6-10, in spite of the fatigue and pressure. Big props especially to Miles hitting two big ones in a row.
While I gave them a big break today for the emotional and physical let down, it will have to get better soon, with the possibility of 3 games in three days in the ACC tourney and similar 1 day off turnarounds in the NCAA tourney. Given the travel schedule, I don't think that the Physical let down will be an issue, but they came out really sloppy in the first half emotionally, with a lot of lazy plays on offense, both in transition and in the half court. If I were coaching this team, that's what I'd be harping on them about tomorrow and would be challenging them big time to come out with intensity against Wake early. In fact, If they get caught looking ahead to Carolina in the first half against Wake, I'll be extremely disappointed after this big lesson today.
We need to get more low post production. We are simply ignoring the Plumlees on the offensive end. Va Tech was over playing the three and as a result we had a tough outing beyond the arc. Greenberg's stategy was obviously to stop the 3, which I think was very smart. We shot 6-24 from beyond the arc and it was not because we just missed shots. Their defense was good outside because they weren't guarding us down low. Curry had more shots than Miles, Mason and Kelly combined. The lack of a low post production is the real weakness of this team but we are still getting it done and still at the top of the conference standings. Let's hope we can put 2 more wins on the board in the next 2 games.
I'm listening to Capel's Instant Feedback session on Duke Radio.
Said Miles was terrific, playing really well. That he looks up to Zoubs. He said that Mason needs to get it going, but he thought that he did some really good things in OT.
They want TT to take open looks, but they really like his defensive intensity. He did a lot of good things today.
Josh has a concussion, which is why he didn't play the rest of the game. They will be cautious, but they said they missed his energy on the bench. They also like how he brings energy on the court, talks on D, etc. Said he was like TT in the post a bit.
Capel says the team has a strong desire to win. He's talking up our schedule and the 25 wins. Really proud of winning on an afternoon we weren't our best, and get ready for Wake now. He says they know their team and they need the guys to be consistent, but to be fresh...as fresh as possible physically...at this time of the year. Mentally, too. Rest, eating right, taking days off...to get away. He says they plan to come back Monday to prepare for Wake. It's a quick-turnaround game on Tuesday night.
I'm missing stuff I'm sure, but there's some of the highlights.
Gutsy win today. This team has really been growing a lot in recent weeks.
VT really took the 3 away from us today. They were the anti-Heels in that they know how to guard the perimeter.
There were a couple of bad misses on the front ends of one-and-ones that will hurt us in middle March if we continue to do that.
As far as the tired legs are concerned, we have the AAC tourney coming up and then the dance. Tired legs can't be an issue. I thought that's why K likes to schedule tough early games with lots of travel. That can't be an excuse.
Gotta love the fact that we pulled this one out, though. Couple of weeks ago, we didn't seem to know how to win these.
Last point, the final foul on Kelly was big. Not only was it questionable, but it negated a late three by Curry which he canned on the play. That foul isn't called, the game isn't in OT.
On to Wake and then the rematch at home. Fun week coming up.
I'm very happy that Duke is 13-3 in games decided by single digits. That shows that they know how to make winning plays late. Today's game was pretty much the mirror image of the Miami game (at least late since Duke wasn't down double digits today) and Duke found a way to win this one whereas they lost the Miami game. Good job guys!
This was the trap game and we escaped.
Kudos to the team for finding a way to win without our best stuff. We had no legs today, but hung in for the win.
Thank God for our outstanding free throw defense.