Saturday, April 3, 2010
Instant halftime analysis on Duke-WVU
By Eamonn Brennan
INDIANAPOLIS -- Halfway through Duke's dominating 39-31 performance over West Virginia in the first half, this one is pretty easy to explain:
HOW THE HALF WAS WON: Duke is making everything. Coach Mike Krzyzewski's charges are 7-of-14 shooting from behind the arc, shooting at a blistering pace and scoring on just about every possession. The Blue Devils look calm, focused, and in rhythm, and when they get open looks -- which has been far too often for Bob Huggins' liking, I'm sure -- they're smoothly stroking them. And it's not like West Virginia is playing all that badly. The Mountaineers have made 4 of 6 from behind the arc. But when you're up against a team this coolly efficient, you've got to make things much more difficult, and for too long in the first half WVU didn't do that.
TURNING POINT: Up until about the eight-minute mark, this was close and hard-fought. Then Duke took things to another level. Call it the perfect storm -- the Blue Devils got into a rhythm in their secondary break, quickly finding open shooters and burying their buckets, while the Mountaineers took about three or four minutes off defensively. The result? A Kyle Singler three. A Jon Scheyer three. A Singler two. A Scheyer two. A Singler three. And then three straight Nolan Smith threes to give Duke a 37-24 lead with 4:34 remaining. Duke would hit a drought quickly afterward, but that torrid display was more than enough to carry them through to the eight-point lead they held at the half.
PLAYER OF THE HALF: Kyle Singler -- 14 points on 6-of-12 from the field. Singler had it going in a big way in the first half, finding open looks, getting buckets off the dribble, and playing the very simple, fundamentally brilliant brand of basketball throughout.
PLAYER OF THE HALF II: Nolan Smith -- 11 points, four assists. Smith's three straight deep threes represented the pinnacle of Duke's incredible offensive performance. If you didn't see it, find a way to do so. It was beautiful basketball.
STAT OF THE HALF: Here's a stat for you: Duke averaged 1.77 points per possession in the first half. Read that again. That means that every time Duke came down the court -- they had 22 possessions, according to SCACC Hoops -- they nearly scored two points every time down. Duke is the most efficient offense in the country, so it's not surprising they're offensively successful. But the scale of that success -- Duke scores 1.22 points per possession normally, and the average for Division I is right at 1.0 -- is astounding.
STAT OF THE HALF II: How did West Virginia get here? Offensive rebounds. That's been the Mountaineers' M.O. all season long -- they weren't a good shooting team, but they could outrebound anyone in the country and get easy putbacks on second chance opportunities. Not tonight: West Virginia has had just two offensive rebounds in this game. Their offensive rebounding percentage is a miserable 15.4 percent. They average 41.9 percent, second-best in the country.
WHAT DUKE HAS TO DO TO WIN: Keep shooting the lights out? It seems oversimplified, but it's true: If Duke keeps getting great looks in their secondary break, they should win this game. They're doing everything else right.
WHAT WEST VIRGINIA HAS TO DO TO WIN: Find a way to get to the glass, and pronto. And figure out a better defense -- perhaps the 1-3-1 -- for picking up Duke's shooters in the half court and making sure they're not getting comfortable looks off screens and step-backs.