Photo by Lawson Kurtz/The Chronicle
A massive double-digit lead at the end of the game is like Christmas morning for Duke's freshmen—it's their chance to step onto the court, get into the game and start racking up the stats. First came Miles Plumlee about five minutes into the second half of Duke's 97-54 win over Georgia Southern Tuesday, and then Elliot Williams followed a couple minutes later. With about nine minutes left in regulation play, Olek Czyz had notched a spot on the court to round out the trio.
"Being a freshman, you can kind of defer to the older guys—you don't want to be the guy," said sophomore Kyle Singler, who led Duke with 19 points. "Our freshmen are very good, they just need to have confidence in themselves. And they do, they just need to show it. They are going to be an important part of our team."
For the remainder of the game—led by either senior Greg Paulus, sophomore Nolan Smith or junior Marty Pocius to keep some order—the freshmen got a chance to show what they could do and work out the kinks together. A miscommunication between Plumlee and Williams on a joint rebound led to a travel and an easily-avoided turnover. That didn't happen again. Williams found his groove pretty quickly on the court—maybe a little too quickly. A showboating behind-the-back pass that led to a turnover got a shake of the head from Mike Krzyzewski. Williams has some style in him—on Monday night, he closed the game with a 360 dunk (see video below; hat tip to Sports Blog reader mrod).
None of this, however, is groundbreaking or surprising. When you are up by about 40 points, you put in your freshmen to get them the game experience. It's pretty much a coaching no-brainer and the advantage of pre-conference tournaments to tuck some experience away early.
But what was surprising tonight was the stats Williams put up—or, should I say, pulled down. The 6-foot-4 guard actually led the team in rebounding in his 14 minutes on the floor with 11 boards. He rightfully challenged 6-foot-10 Plumlee and Georgia Southern's 6-foot-11 Kryzszt Janiszewski to dominate the boards for a game-high rebounding performance. His athleticism was impressive, and left all of Cameron Indoor Stadium wondering just how high the freshman can leap.
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