Arizona Dominates Duke To End Their Dreams Of RepeatingPosted by nvr1983 on March 24th, 2011
It was a defeat that was notable not only for when it happened, but also how it happened. Duke entered their game against Arizona as 9.5-point favorites and were widely expected to make a trip to Houston with a chance to defend their championship especially after UConn knocked off San Diego State, which had been considered the strongest threat to the Blue Devils as a de facto home team. Instead the Blue Devils were dominated by the Wildcats in a way that few had envisioned as possible.
After the Blue Devils went into halftime with a 44-38 lead despite a phenomenal first half from Derrick Williams (25 points and 5 rebounds in the first half alone) most analysts expected them to gradually pull away in the second half as Kyrie Irving appeared to be playing like his pre-injury self and Kyle Singler appeared to be playing like the All-American that the media had pegged him as coming into the season. Instead the few Arizona fans who made the trek to Anaheim were treated to some of the best basketball a Wildcat team has played since the days of Miles Simon and Mike Bibby. In the first half it appeared as if Williams would have to carry the load for Wildcats, but his teammates were more than capable of assisting their superstar in the second half as they carried the load scoring 48 of the team’s 55 points in the 2nd half after only scoring 13 of the team’s 38 in the first half. Led by 20 points from Lamont Jones and n will be 13 points from Solomon Hill the Wildcats appeared as if they could do no wrong and dominated every facet of the game in the second half not only outscoring the Blue Devils by a remarkable 22 points (55-33), but also dominating the boards by a margin of 25 to 9.
Irving and Singler put up solid numbers overall with 28 and 18 points respectively, but they were quiet for a large stretch of the second half with Irving adding 5 points in what was essentially garbage time. Most of the post-game reaction will focus on Nolan Smith‘s uncharacteristically poor performance (8 points on 3 of 14 from the field and 6 turnovers) and questions about whether the decision to reinsert Irving into the line-up backfired on Coach K, but that misses the larger point that Duke was simply dominated in aspect of this game in the second half in a way that was reminiscent of the trashing they endured at St. John’s earlier this year in a game that the Blue Devils appeared to have checked out of early in the second half after the Red Storm grabbed a sizable lead in the first half. That wasn’t that the case tonight as the Blue Devils appeared to be in control of this game heading into halftime before they fell apart.
Perhaps the defining moment of this game was Derrick Williams driving by Miles Plumlee before finishing with an emphatic dunk over Kyle Singler to give the Wildcats a 73-61 lead and in the process making a statement to the Blue Devils and the nation that the defending champions were in real trouble. Even though there was a sense of inevitability that the Blue Devils would make a comeback (whether you love them or hate them you still have to recognize that they are Duke and Duke does always finds a way to get back in the game) the Blue Devils were never able to find the spark in the second half and could not get a stop against the Wildcats who hit appeared to be making all their shots and when they didn’t they simply rebounded their misses and put those back in. When Coach K made the move to pull his senior co-captains Singler and Smith with 2:01 remaining the writing was on the wall that the defending champions had been slain. While the Wildcats head to a match-up with Jim Calhoun, Kemba Walker, and the UConn Huskies the Blue Devils and their fans are left with an empty feeling of what was expected to be a march to a repeat championship that appeared certain in December and at least highly likely with the return of Irving. Instead the program will most likely spend next season rebuilding (relatively) despite adding Austin Rivers, widely considered the top high school player in the country, as they will have to find a way to try to replace the contributions of Singler, Smith, and Irving.