Oh, the wonders of the american airline system: after our 11:30 (central time) flight was canceled due to “maintenance issues,” my colleague Joe Drews and I are stuck in Madison’s lovely airport (seriously, it is nice for a small airport) for another two hours until we can begin our journey home. This gives me the opportunity to highlight a few miscellaneous thoughts and reactions from last night’s game that didn’t make it into the live blog or The Chronicle this morning:
- Mason Plumlee’s return to the lineup may have been anticlimactic, but it was encouraging. No one could have expected much from Plumlee in his first game back, especially as he clearly wasn’t 100 percent (thanks to the conspicuous brace remaining on his wrist) and given the hostile environment in the Kohl Center. But after starting out a little tentatively, Plumlee seemed to gain confidence as the game progressed. At one point the forward attempted a three-point shot when the defender conceded it to him with little hesitation, and although the shot didn’t fall it showed that Plumlee wasn’t going to be put off his game. The freshman also played some solid defense for the Blue Devils, especially after Brian Zoubek was called for his fourth foul early in the second half.
- If Duke had somehow managed to complete its comeback attempt last night, this morning’s headline (on campus and off) would likely have been anointing Andre Dawkins the next big thing for the Blue Devils. Dawkins’ 4-for-4 shooting performance from beyond the arc in the second half was impressive not just because he made those shots, but how he made them. When Dawkins had an open three there was zero hesitation on his part before he put up the shot, and for good reason. That confidence translated to his teammates, who also had little hesitation giving the ball to Dawkins with the game on the line. Case in point: Dawkins final three of the night was in transition, when senior Jon Scheyer essentially handed the ball to him for a shot rather than take it to the rim himself. Dawkins’s continued development, both offensively and defensively (where he was also solid, minus a few freshman mistakes), could prove to be a deciding factor in Duke’s ACC Championship hopes.
- Duke’s inability to get off a potential game-tying shot when the Blue Devils were down three with under thirty seconds to play was extremely surprising. While I have always been a proponent of trying to get quick two points rather than three in such a situation late in the game, the strategy only works if enough time remains after the shot, and likely subsequent foul, for a solid offensive possession. But when Nolan Smith drove to the hoop in that crucial situation last night, there were already less than 10 seconds on the clock when he put up the shot, and less than five when Kyle Singler finally sunk the put-back. This put Duke in a situation where it was way too rushed, especially with no time outs left.
- But in the end, this loss shouldn’t be a game-changer for the Blue Devils or Duke fans. Yes, the Blue Devils will learn a lot from the loss, especially the importance of getting out to a quick start on the road. But most fans don’t realize that in Bo Ryan’s nine years in Madison, the Badgers have lost a total of 10 home games. Combined with the fact that the Badgers clearly treated this game like one of, if not the, most important contests of the year for them, Duke was facing tough odds. I don’t think anyone will argue that Duke is not the more talented team, but as Jon Scheyer stated last night, Wisconsin simply wanted it more. Couple that with a raucous home crowd and a nearly perfect performance from the Badgers’ two stars, and you have the quintessential recipe for a college basketball upset.