Wake Forest's star point guard Chris Paul ran circles around Duke's de facto floor 'generals.' WINSTON-SALEM -- If the abyss that is Duke's point guard position wasn't already obvious enough, leave it to superstar Chris Paul to speed all over it.
Paul ran up, down, over and around the Blue Devils' de facto point guard trio of Daniel Ewing, Sean Dockery and DeMarcus Nelson here Wednesday night, and he left all three stupefied. Granted, Paul is probably the most talented player in the country, but when Duke's athletic, defense-oriented floor 'generals' have some of their weakest performances of the season against the one man they knew they had to stop, that"s a setup for disaster.
Ewing's engine never started, and it shut down early when he fouled out with just five points on 2-of-6 shooting in 20 minutes of play. While Ewing was moving sideways, fending off Paul and only sometimes dumping the ball inside to Shelden Williams, Wake's All-American was jetting vertically down the court and then down the baseline on his way to 23 gut-checked points.
"We need Daniel to play more and better," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I'm really surprised that we had an opportunity to win it without Daniel."
It was the fight with 5:39 to go in the first half that sent Ewing flailing and Paul skyrocketing. Three plays after they were both hit with a technical foul--Ewing's third personal--Paul drove for a highlight-reel reverse scoop, which Dockery promptly followed up with a botched set play. Paul would then pull the same move two more times and take matters into his own hands in the second half.
While Paul was rattling off eight straight points, Ewing was totally lost in the fold. After Paul drained a pull-up three to put Wake up 10 and force Krzyzewski to call a timeout, he picked up his third foul. But Ewing lost the ball and chased Paul back down the court, only to foul him on his way up.
"Our best defense against him was when he was in foul trouble," Wake head coach Skip Prosser said of Ewing.
Dockery would pick up his fourth foul soon thereafter, and in two straight plays to follow, Nelson missed an easy floater and Ewing botched two free throws. With a speed advantage over even the quick Duke trio, Paul kept charging, pushing in transition on back-to-back drives that led to a dynamic crossover layup and a drive-and-dish that forced Ewing"s final exit at the 7:22 mark.
With Prosser delicately bringing his star in and out of the game to keep his foul trouble under control, Paul was as intense--and fast--as could be. While Nelson was taking over momentarily at the point, turning the ball over and missing jumpers, Paul was throwing up alley-oops, stealing back steals and matching J.J. Redick as best as anyone could down the stretch.
Krzyzewski said after the game that Redick"s run at the end gave energy to the rest of the Blue Devils, but Paul walked all over Duke"s paltry point guards all night long--no sweat.
"It's not a crazy, unbelievable upset anymore when we beat a North Carolina or a Duke," Paul said, an almost perfect night behind him. "That's because we know we can beat anyone as long as we just treat them like anyone else. Don"t get too up, don't get on a high horse, just treat them like any other team and we can play with them."
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