(excerpted from my March Madness Running Blog at North of the 400)
In basketball they say that you can’t teach size – that a team needs to have a big man. San Antonio has Tim Duncan, Boston has Kevin Garnett and the Lakers have Pau Gasol. You need a big guy, no matter the level, so you can have an inside game.
Duke, needless to say, doesn’t have an inside game.
They’re a shooting team, and they started off the game shooting exceptionally well. But n the second half, they ran cold and ran themselves to an early exit.
During a long stretch in the second half, Duke kept hoisting up threes and kept missing – at one point, they missed 16 straight shots. Their lack of an inside game kept their offence at standstill – they couldn’t hit a shot and with four players standing outside the arc, they weren’t getting rebounds.
At the end of the game, they only grabbed 19 rebounds, with just five of them offensive.
And their defence buckled under this pressure as West Virginia kept coming at them with great ball movement and a strong inside presence. They were going backdoor on Duke, they were getting open looks and, worst of all, they were killer from the charity stripe, sinking 19 of 22 free throws.
But this was nothing new for the Blue Devils. Against Baylor, they showed the same problems: when they went cold, they couldn’t get anything going. It took Henderson to pick them up and carry to the next round, a feat he wasn’t able to accomplish twice in one weekend.
Scoring 18 and going seven for 10 from the line, Henderson led the team in scoring. But he was out rebounded and was a team-best five for nine from the floor. Of their starters, only two hit three or more baskets.
But credit is due to the West Virginia Mountaineers. Down by five at the half, they rallied and overtook the Blue Devils. Lead them was Jason Alexander, who had a double-double, scoring 22 and grabbing 11 rebounds as they rallied back. Also having a great game was Joe Mazzulla, who scored 13 and grabbed 11 off the bench.
Give them their due – they helped mount a second half comeback and upset the number-two ranked Blue Devils. But this was Duke’s game to lose, which they very much did.