Duke made a statement in their second half against Maryland on Saturday. Not only did they play well in that period, they did something we haven’t seen much of this season—rebound the basketball, 48 times to be exact. There have been games where the Blue Devils have reached 40 rebounds, but none of those games felt as big as the one played against the Terrapins.
By this point it’s common knowledge that senior Miles Plumlee played a terrific game, scoring 13 points and ripping down a career-high 22 rebounds. What made the feat even more impressive is that no player in the Coach K era had ever recorded so many rebounds in one game. It should also be noted nearly half of Miles’ points came off of dunks. Miles will remember this game for the rest of his life, but the question everyone is asking is this—was this his Brian Zoubek-esque coming out party?
The signs were there. Nine of Miles’ 22 rebounds came on the offensive end of the floor, an area that Zoubek thrived in over the second half of the 2009-10 season. Miles has consistently made the best of his minutes, including his 6-of-11 shooting performance Saturday in 28 minutes of work. Even from a maturity standpoint, I think he has embraced his leadership role and has started to run with it. There’s only one problem—Miles will not have the same impact Zoubek did.
The oldest Plumlee had a marvelous game, but let’s not forget why he received so much playing time in the first place. With 13:20 left in the first half, Ryan Kelly and Josh Hairston had already recorded two fouls, which meant Miles would have to play most of the first half and fill-in. Once again, Miles had to fill-in for Kelly and Hairston. Miles took full advantage of his opportunity in front of the loudest crowd this reporter has seen in Cameron this season; however, this was one superb game.
This was the first time Miles scored double digits since January 4th and only the sixth time he has done so this season. This was also the first time Miles recorded double-digit rebounds since January 15th and only the fifth time he has done so this season.
To be fair, this was the fifth game Miles has recorded five or more offensive rebounds and Miles has only played 18.2 minutes per game thus far.
Another problem is, if he were to start like Zoubek did, whom does he replace in the starting lineup? Little brother Mason is a 100 percent lock to start, as evidenced by another double-double performance (16 points, 10 rebounds) against Maryland. Ryan Kelly could be replaced, but from the perspective of providing an overall package, does Miles have as strong of a case? Kelly hasn’t had the season many expected, but his ability to shoot, coupled with his rebounding abilities (only one less than Miles per game), makes him a better option.
This column is not meant to tear down the accomplishments of Miles. As I’ve already mentioned, his game Saturday was very impressive. When Duke made it’s run to a national title, two big men were playing when the game mattered most: Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek. Would you put Miles in over Mason and Kelly? The answer is probably no.