Sunday, December 02, 2007

From Herald-Sun in Durham

Devils survive a tight one with Davidson
Dec 2, 2007

CHARLOTTE -- Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said that Davidson has built a basketball program that believes it will win and does so with class.

Saturday afternoon at Bobcats Arena, one of Krzyzewski's deeper Duke teams prevented Davidson from winning thanks to contributions from every class.

"When the time has called for somebody to step up, we've had multiple guys make key plays," said DeMarcus Nelson, the senior class representative in the Blue Devils' 79-73 victory. "Everyone has been stepping up when the team needs it."

Nelson and junior Greg Paulus combined on a pair of plays down the stretch to stave off Davidson and keep the seventh-ranked Blue Devils (8-0) undefeated, and sophomore Gerald Henderson and freshman Kyle Singler played pivotal roles throughout.

Each key cog got the job done in different areas -- Nelson dishing out assists, Paulus hitting shots, Henderson swatting shots and Singler taking charges -- and they repeatedly got it done when it mattered most.

Seven times in the second half, Davidson (3-3) trimmed what had once been a 16-point deficit down to somewhere between three and five points. Six times, Duke scored the next time downcourt, and the one time Duke didn't score, the Blue Devils came up with a defensive stop and scored the next time down.

"Davidson is definitely a tough team. They've got a lot of weapons and really play well together," said Henderson, who threatened his career high with 21 points and added three highlight-reel blocked shots. "But we came up with some stops at some crucial times where they made runs but they couldn't get the lead.

"We had a few lapses, but we were able to contain them enough to keep the lead."

Krzyzewski labeled Henderson as "the difference," and Henderson got it done in lots of different ways. One two-minute stretch midway through the second half typified his game.

Davidson had pulled within 46-43 on a 3-pointer from guard Jason Richards, who finished with 14 points and 11 assists and who "played about as good as a guard can play" in the second half according to Krzyzewski. But Singler, who also scored 14 points, answered with a 3-pointer, then Henderson blocked a layup, drew super-sophomore Stephen Curry's fourth foul by taking a charge, scored on an alley-oop dunk, then grabbed a rebound and went coast-to-coast and hit an off-balance shot in the lane to extend Duke's edge to 55-45.

"It's important to be a player out there, not just a scorer and not just a rebounder and not just an assist guy," Henderson said. "Things like that happen with the way we play and the way Coach coaches us. He's always telling us to make plays."

Davidson, of course, kept making plays as well, eventually closing within 70-65 heading to the final minute. But that's when Paulus, who hadn't hit a shot in more than 25 minutes, responded with a clutch 3-pointer and a difficult fadeaway from the baseline -- sandwiched around a 3-pointer by Curry (20 points) -- to send Duke to the final 30 seconds ahead 75-68.

Paulus' baskets both came off assists from Nelson, who made arguably an even bigger play earlier in the half. What had been a 40-24 Duke lead had dwindled to 43-40, but after a timeout Nelson hit a 3-pointer to mark the first of many successful responses to Davidson runs.

"At the start of the second half they just killed us," Krzyzewski said. "We were taking bad shots -- they were forcing us into that -- and when it got to 43-40 we called a timeout before the TV timeout.

"That was a big juncture in the game, and DeMarcus hit a three. At the timeout he was the most vocal -- he was being a captain -- and then he followed that up on the court. To me it was one of the really good moments, a big moment for us this season. I love when a kid does that."

The teams played on even terms for the first 10 minutes, but then Duke's defense temporarily took Curry out of the game and the Blue Devils took control. After Curry a hit tough reverse layup to tie it at 17-17, Paulus drew a charge from Curry -- giving him two fouls -- then Paulus sandwiched 3-pointers around a Jon Scheyer layup to jumpstart a 23-7 run for a 40-24 lead. Scheyer, who finished with 15 points, eventually capped the spurt with a 3-pointer and a trio of free throws after being fouled on a 3.

Davidson rallied even with Curry fighting foul trouble. In the opening seconds of the second half, Singler drew a charge from Curry for a second time, and Curry's fourth and final charge -- taken by Henderson during his later surge -- came at the 11:58 mark.

Curry still managed to stay on the floor for 34 minutes and made four 3-pointers, but it wasn't enough against a Duke team that hit 11 of 25 from 3-point range.

Fittingly, six different Devils hit 3-pointers.

"Different guys stepped up at different times," Paulus said. "We had everybody making plays, and that's ultimately got us the win in the end."

NOTES -- Saturday's attendance was listed at 17,034, with Duke holding the edge in terms of fan support but not by a wide margin. ... The Blue Devils were without junior Martynas Pocius (ankle) for the second straight game. ... Duke doesn't play again until Saturday, when the Blue Devils will welcome Michigan to Cameron Indoor Stadium (2 p.m., WRAL).

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