It was a game with a result that was shocking not so much for the fact that St. John’s beat Duke, but the manner in which they did so. Coming into the game on Sunday afternoon, the Red Storm had lost five of six after raising expectations with a win over Georgetown at the beginning of an unprecedented stretch of eight consecutive games against top 25 teams. That skid had threatened to put a damper on all the hype that had accompanied Steve Lavin‘s arrival in New York City and his much-ballyhooed incoming freshman class, but for one afternoon all of that was forgotten as the Red Storm put on as dominant of a performance against such a high caliber opponent as any St. John’s team has had since the days when they were still called the politically incorrect Redmen, Lou Carnesecca roamed the sidelines, and Walter Berry and Chris Mullin donned the uniform. Today, the newest generation of St. John’s players turned in a performance that certainly made Carnesecca and Berry (both in attendance today) proud.
Behind a full court press than left Duke looking sloppy and some hot shooting, the Red Storm ran away with a 93-78 victory that was not as close as the 15-point final margin indicates. In front of a sellout crowd of 19,353 at Madison Square Garden that was nearly 50-50 in terms of allegiance to Duke or St. John’s, the Red Storm played their best basketball of the season and took advantage of the Blue Devils playing their worst. Even though Mike Krzyzewski seemed to imply in his post-game press conference that this game was an isolated incident, it does raise questions about the defending champions. On one hand we can probably discount Duke’s 5-for-26 shooting from 3-point range (and 1-for-19 before a late hot streak after the game was out of reach made the final numbers more respectable) as an aberration, but there were several other aspects of the game that should not be dismissed as easily.
- Duke’s lack of athleticism: Last season Doug Gottlieb caught some heat from Coach K for calling the Blue Devils “alarmingly unathletic.” While it may not have been the politically correct thing to say, there was some truth to the statement. Outside of perhaps Mason Plumlee, none of the current Blue Devils will amaze any NBA scout with their athleticism. This doesn’t mean that Duke isn’t athletic enough to win the title (their biggest losses from last year’s championship team are Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek, who were probably the two least athletic players in last year’s starting line-up), but it does mean that this Duke team isn’t going to blow any elite team off the court with their athletes, and, in certain situations like today when their shots are not falling, they are vulnerable to inferior teams.