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Three Up, Three Down: Duke, Round Two

Painful, but not bleak, this game was a microcosm of the season: fodder to doomsay the program for those more pessimistic, and a light of hope for the future for those more bullish on our future prospects. It was so close to wonderment, but in the end, there just wasn’t enough.

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Duke Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The Ups

John Collins. Again. 31 points (13-18, 5-6 at the line) and 15 boards. 10 straight games of 20+ points. That is just insane. I have no more superlatives at this point to send John’s way. He is a singular talent, and if John does stay another year for any reason, I will campaign actively to hang his jersey in the rafters.

AMAZING Ball Security. Four turnovers the entire game. Against Duke. In Cameron. Not only that, there were no turnovers for any of our guards. 2 turnovers for John Collins and 1 each for Austin Arians and Greg McClinton. In terms of assists, there were 6 for Bryant Crawford (who had a pretty great game in general; if someone other than John Collins was the Player of the Game, it’d be BC no question), 3 for Brandon Childress, 2 each for Austin Arians and Keyshawn Woods, and a single dime apiece for Trent VanHorn and Konstantinos Mitoglou. That’s ball movement almost beyond reproach, quite frankly. Maybe a bit higher assist percentage (15 assists on 35 baskets is pretty good but not great), but that’s really the only flaw. I will, however, discuss that lost point more later.

Next Men Up. We were without the services of Mitchell Wilbekin, so Trent VanHorn and Greg McClinton were forced into extended minutes (by their standards) and filled in rather admirably, especially in the defensive end. It’s not that the defense was great at any point, but Greg and Trent were a big part of the 11 point run that had us with a chance to win at the end of the game. Thank you to both of them

The Downs

Duke From Deep. 13-27 from deep. Yikes. If there’s any good news, we tightened up in the later game, as at one point they were 10-20, meaning they went 3-7 for the rest of the game. That’s still 42% which is hardly great defensively, but it is nearly a 10 percent drop, and was almost certainly an important piece of our run.

Offensive Rebounds Into Threes. Duke had 12 second chance points off of 9 offensive boards which isn’t a terrible number necessarily, but for a team like Duke, an offensive rebound into a kickout three is a dream scenario, and they had several of those.

Late Game Shot Selection. I’m going to talk for a minute about the idea of “hero ball”. In my opinion, “hero ball” is one player taking a glut of bad shots and repeatedly ignoring teammates in better positions, especially in “danger zone” type situations with regards to time, score, etc. The argument could be made that Bryant Crawford has a penchant for doing this. There were a few genuinely bad shots in this game by Bryant. That said, however, the thing being endlessly dissected is the lack of touches for John Collins down the stretch, especially since he was being guarded at the time by Grayson “Heir To The Laettner Throne” Allen. That said, I will say to the end of my days that the attempted layup to take the lead was a good play by Crawford. It’s extremely easy to dissect things in hindsight, but Bryant had been very effective on driving into the paint and scored 21 points in his own right. Do I think Bryant could and possibly should have worked it inside? Yes. Do I think the possession was terrible and Bryant actively going into business for himself, teammates be damned? Absolutely not. So many “what if”s exist, and imprisoning ourselves in them doesn’t really do much good for anyone.

The Bottom Line

That was painful and will continue to be for quite some time. Personally, though, I choose to be among those who take the light side of this mixed bag. We NEED to handle Pitt on Wednesday, and I personally believe we will. We’re good, not great ,but that doesn’t mean we’re not trending in the right direction. Those camera shots of the Duke fans looking like they might vomit at the very end almost made it worth it. Almost: a refrain I hope will be a thing of the past sooner than later.

On to the next. Go Deacs.