Saturday, December 08, 2007

No Fluke: Duke Routs Wolverines

Duke 95 Michigan 67

I may have to take back some of what I said about Duke after watching them roll over Michigan on Saturday. While they are not big up front, they do have some depth and their wingmen, notably Gerald Henderson, Taylor King and DeMarcus Nelson, are extremely versatile and play within themselves. Most impressive, however, was freshman Nolan Smith, who scored a career-high 17 points on 7-9 shooting.

Duke opened the game shooting 0-7, but Taylor King hit a sweeping hook shot, then Paulus hit a long trey, followed by a three from King on the wing. Suddenly, the Blue Devils were up 8-5. Duke could not maintain much of a lead early in the first half, as the 3-5 Wolverines continued to push the ball and force Duke into mostly outside shooting. But the Wolverines shot only 26% for the half and Duke nearly ran them out of the gym, going on a 23-9 run to expand an 18-14 lead to 41-23 at intermission. Duke shot only 37% and hit on only 6 of 17 three-point tries in the opening stanza.

The second half saw a lot of substitution by both coaches, and Duke's lead was never challenged. Michigan seemed content to just hang in and work on their offense, while the Blue Devils hammered the ball inside.

Michigan ended up shooting 38% for the game, to the Blue Devils' 49%. Duke hit 11 of 26 3-pointers, better than their average of 22 threes per game and a 41% clip.

One to watch for Michigan is freshman Manny Harris, who was held to just 8 points, well below his 16.6 per game average. He's a slick guard with good ball-handling skills. Despite the loss, the Wolverines will win more than a fair share of their Big 10 games once they develop a little more offensively.

In other early Saturday action, the Fighting Illini took the visiting Arizona Wildcats into overtime, dropping a 78-72 decision to the 6-2 Wildcats. Arizona misses head coach Lute Olson, who is on an extended leave through the end of the season as he has filed for divorce, seeking to end his second marriage. Freshman sensation Jerryd Bayless dropped in 20 for Arizona, right on his average for the season.

Louisville, playing without Juan Palacios, had their hands full with the Dayton Flyers, dropping a 70-65 decision, as the Cardinals had absolutely no answer for senior guard Brian Roberts, who poured in 28 points on 10-17 shooting. The win makes Dayton 7-1, while Louisville falls to 5-2. Both Louisville losses have come at home, the first a 78-76 defeat to BYU. The Cardinals, currently #14, may fall out of the Top 25 next week, while Dayton probably won't get any consideration, but looks like a contender in the rugged Atlantic 10, along with Xavier, Duquesne and Rhode Island.

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