Gary Williams's thoughts on the Blue Devils
Coach Gary Williams began his session with reporters Friday by pointing to the disparity between Duke's performances at home and on the road this season before delving into his assessment of the Blue Devils, who are ranked No. 7 in the nation.
"They’re shooting 10 percentage points higher overall and from the three-point line at home," Williams said. "They’re one of the bigger teams in the league in a year when the league is very big, in terms of inside players. In the Carolina game they shot 31 percent and still won the game because they had 23 offensive rebounds and, you know, really hurt Carolina on the glass. It’s a very physical team inside and they have three great players on the perimeter in Smith, Scheyer and Singler. Until we see Thomas not show up, you know, we’re assuming he’s going to play."
Let's address those points individually, shall we? The shooting improvements at home, as opposed to on the road speak for themselves. Not much to add there.
As for the size advantage that Duke possesses, Williams certainly makes a good point there. The Blue Devils start a small forward (Kyle Singler) who is 6 feet 8. Their usual starting front court consists of 6-10 Miles Plumlee and 6-8 Lance Thomas, though Thomas is doubtful for Saturday's game with a right knee injury. In reserve, Duke can offer 7-1 Brian Zoubek, 6-10 Mason Plumlee and 6-10 Ryan Kelly. The Blue Devils are the ACC's top rebounding unit (plus-4.3 rebounding margin) in conference play. They also rank first in the conference in offensive rebounds (14.5 per game) in ACC play.
As for Duke's perimeter players, the Blue Devils rely heavily on Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer and Singler to put points on the board. Scheyer (18.8 pionts per game), Singler (17.6) and Smith (17.1) rank fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in the ACC in scoring in conference play. All three of those players are averaging more than 37.5 minutes per game.
As for Thomas, tests on his right knee Thursday indicated a severe bone bruise but no ligament damage. He has not been ruled out of Saturday's game, though he remains doubtful to play.
"He's been kind of our emotional leader and our best defender inside," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said, according to the Charlotte News & Observer
Williams said one of the things Duke does well is kick the ball out to the perimeter after grabbing offensive rebounds.
"That’s when teams are effective shooting the three because you’re not in your defense," Williams said. "You know, your defense is messed up because everybody’s been in there rebounding."
Led by Singler, who is shooting 40.7 percent from the three-point line, Duke is making 34.9 percent of its shots from beyond the arc in conference play, which ranks third in the ACC. Scheyer is shooting 36.6 percent from three-point range.
Speaking of Scheyer, Williams said Duke's senior point guard is playing with more confidence this season.
"He’s playing with two guys he’s really comfortable with in terms of if you want to call Singler a guard or a forward or whatever he is," Williams said. "He’s really comfortable that, if he drives, they’ll get to a place where he can kick it if the defense does a good job on him. He’s not afraid to try to take over the game this year. In other words, if Duke is struggling offensively, he’ll take more shots, things like that, which all good players do when they feel there’s a need for it."
But Williams stopped short of describing Scheyer as a true point guard, pointing out that three Duke players share ballhandling responsibilities and that Scheyer is "their main ball-handler." Regardless, Scheyer is averaging 4.7 assists per game in league play and owns a 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks third in the ACC.
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