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Paulus conducts Duke offense

In the first three-and-a-half minutes of the second half, Greg Paulus showed the Cameron Crazies exactly what he's capable of.

After New Mexico State's first field-goal attempt of the half, Paulus pulled down a defensive rebound, pushed the ball up the court and lofted it above the rim for DeMarcus Nelson to throw down. Just 11 seconds later, the junior poked away a steal and dove across Coach K Court while tipping the ball with his left hand to Nelson for another dunk.

Two minutes later, Paulus had yet another takeaway, and followed it up by drilling a three from the left wing. These are the types of energetic, crowd-pleasing plays the Blue Devils' hustling point guard has been known to make.

"Greg had a really good game," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

But much like his first two seasons at Duke, Paulus still can't get over the hump of mistakes. During the same three-plus-minute stretch, he displayed the same enigmatic inconsistency that has plagued him in his two-plus seasons as a Blue Devil.

While simultaneously getting the crowd pumped enough to chant his name, Paulus turned the ball over twice. The point guard traveled after an indecisive pass attempt and was whistled for an offensive foul while flying to the basket out of control.

He also struggled at the other end of the court, allowing the Aggies to beat him off the dribble on three possessions.

"He uses a lot of energy," Krzyzewski said of Paulus' stretch. "They drove him three straight times, and that was the first time they drove him all night. I think he just got tired."

Throughout the game, Paulus was the spark that ignited the Blue Devils, both in his play, delivering eight assists-one more than he had in any game last season-and in his leadership. A co-captain last year, Paulus has become the most vocal player on the court for Duke this season. During timeouts, he is the first player to call the Blue Devils into a huddle, acting as the proverbial coach on the court.

Possibly more than his own coaches, Paulus is hard on himself for the mistakes he makes. Following Monday's game, he asked the media how many turnovers he committed.

When a reporter responded that he had made three, Paulus was miffed.

"That's too many," he said. "I was unhappy with those three. I'm trying to get no turnovers. If I keep those down, everything else will fall into place."

In past seasons, Duke has not played at the breakneck pace its plans to employ this season. In two games, the Blue Devils have averaged a staggering 103.5 points.

With this offensive strategy, it is impossible to expect Paulus to play mistake-free basketball if he is as aggressive as the coaches have asked him to be. Yes, he is the guy pushing the ball up the court, hitting high-flying wings for dunks, but-perhaps more importantly-he is the player who has to be able to rein in his teammates when Duke gets out of control.

"He's become a poised point guard," sophomore Gerald Henderson said. "We like to play uptempo offense, but he really settles us down when we need it. He played a hell of a game."

Last season, Paulus emerged as a potent three-point threat, shooting 45-percent from beyond the arc. In the final five games of the year, he averaged a stellar 20.6 points per game.

This season, however, that cannot be his role. He has to be the guy to control the pace for Duke, knowing when to look deep and when to slow down. He has to be the guy Duke can count on to make the correct decision in key situations. He has to be the guy who runs the team when the game is on the line.

Throughout his first two seasons, Paulus has been this player at times. In the past two games, he has been that player most of each night.

But as the leader of this team, that may not be enough. For Duke to reach its potential, Paulus has to be that player all the time.

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