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Offensive options abound for Blue Devils in easy win

CHICAGO — By all accounts, J.J. Redick could be considered Duke’s star player.

The junior shooting guard has put up at least 16 points in each game, and his sweet shot and improved driving ability make him Duke’s biggest offensive weapon.

Anointing Redick as Duke’s star, however, would be overshadowing Daniel Ewing’s contributions. The Blue Devils’ senior leader has scored nearly 20 points a game and has shot more than 50 percent from beyond the arc this season.

But no discussion about Duke’s best player would be complete without considering Shelden Williams. The big man dominated the paint against Valparaiso, putting up his fifth consecutive double-digit scoring effort. On the season, Williams is averaging a double-double per game.

So, given these options, which player does head coach Mike Krzyzewski consider as Duke’s go-to guy?

“I hate to point out just one guy, positively or negatively, because the next game, those things could change,” Krzyzewski said. “I think in order to build a good program, you have to have collective responsibility.”

Perhaps, but it is clear that Ewing, Redick and Williams are helping to shoulder the load. Last Saturday, the trio combined for 56 of Duke’s 93 points. In other words, the Blue Devils don’t have one star player—they have three.

“I think part of the reason that our perimeter is playing so well right now is because of Shelden,” Redick said. “Even when he doesn’t have the ball, people are going to focus on him and always have a helper ready. That just opens things for us.”

Williams did a lot of Duke’s dirty work in the paint Saturday. Enjoying the first one-on-one coverage he has had seen this season, the junior big man abused Valparaiso’s 300-pound center Kenny Harris. Williams played his trademark sterling defense, holding Harris to just four points and five rebounds. In addition, he hit 7-of-9 shots, including a particularly nasty first-half dunk that sparked a 22-5 Blue Devil run to put the game away early.

Yet Williams deflected praise back to his teammates, attributing his post play to the ability of players such as Redick to hit outside shots.

“They were playing a lot of defense out on J.J. and Daniel, and they got hot early,” Williams said. “Once they get hot, that opens up a lot for the middle, and plus they were playing one-on-one in the post.”

Ewing and Redick shot a combined 14-of-23 and joined Williams to give Duke an inside-outside punch reminiscent of the Bobby Hurley-Grant Hill-Christian Laettner and Jay Williams-Shane Battier-Carlos Boozer combinations that won the Blue Devils three national championships.

Redick once again scorched the nets, hitting open shots while using an improved dribble-drive to create even more looks for himself. Likewise, Ewing hit 6-of-10 shots. But it was his broader impact on the game—the senior guard notched six assists and three steals—where he made his mark in the Blue Devils’ blowout victory.

Like Williams, Ewing attributed his strong play to the presence of other scorers.

“It helps a lot,” Ewing said. “Everyone wants to do well individually, but if you’re having a bad night or not playing as well as you’d like to, you’ve got guys that are going to be able to step up for you and make some plays.”

If Duke’s inside-outside combination continues to be as effective as it has been, the Blue Devils may dance their way all the way to the Final Four in St. Louis.

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