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Hoya transition offense runs Duke out of D.C.

Duke has built its identity this season on being a sturdy defensive team that played a solid, methodical halfcourt game. However, Georgetown exploded at the end of the first half to turn the contest into a track meet.
Duke has built its identity this season on being a sturdy defensive team that played a solid, methodical halfcourt game. However, Georgetown exploded at the end of the first half to turn the contest into a track meet.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — If President Obama came to the Verizon Center Saturday afternoon looking for recruits for the Department of Defense, he left happy he didn’t choose any members of the Duke basketball team.

The Blue Devils’ poor effort on that end of the floor allowed Georgetown to dictate the tempo of the game, and the Hoyas consequently ripped Duke with frequent transition baskets off Blue Devil turnovers.

In fact, the ease with which Georgetown scored on backdoor layups and dunks had to bring back nightmarish memories of Duke’s NCAA Tournament loss to another Big East team, Villanova, during which the Blue Devils were repeatedly victimized in the exact same fashion.

“Last year we noticed that they weren’t really getting back as much as thought they would usually get back in transition,” Hoya guard Chris Wright said. “We went into this game saying, especially off the rebounds, we just want to push the ball.”

Duke has built its identity this season on being a sturdy defensive team that played a solid, methodical halfcourt game. However, Georgetown exploded at the end of the first half to turn the contest into a track meet.

With 8:10 remaining in the first half and the Blue Devils trailing 25-20, Hoya guard Austin Freeman exploited a Jon Scheyer miscue and raced down to convert a layup on the other end. On the ensuing possession, Jerelle Benimon stole the ball away, which lead to another Georgetown layup. Moments later, off another steal, Freeman scored again.

In less than a minute, Duke turned the ball over three times, all three of which lead to Hoya baskets. The horrendous sequence for the Blue Devils put them in a deep hole, from which they were never really able to regroup.

“This group, with each game, is getting a heightened sense and understanding that we don’t have to take a bad shot,” Georgetown head coach John Thompson III said. “With the offensive players we have, we know where our shots are coming from and they’re doing an outstanding job night-in and night-out to help each other get shots.”

The Hoyas again used their transition game in the second half to quickly snuff out any hopes of a Duke rally.

After the Blue Devils opened the period with consecutive 3-pointers by Scheyer and Nolan Smith, the Hoyas answered with a layup by Jason Clark. Then, sophomore Greg Monroe, who spurned Duke for Georgetown, stole the ball on the Blue Devils’ next sequence. The big man sprinted down the court and threw down a thunderous dunk, sending the crowd at the Verizon Center into a frenzy.

Monroe recorded yet another steal moments later, which lead to a Julian Vaughn fast-break dunk and ballooned the lead to 13. Duke was never a threat the rest of the way, as the Hoyas continued to get uncontested looks near the basket.

“When you turn the ball over and take bad shots, teams are going to take advantage,” Scheyer said.

For the game, Georgetown shot a ridiculous 71.7 percent from the floor, which is tied for the highest shooting percentage this year by any team in the country.  Wright, who led the Hoyas in scoring along with Monroe, only missed one field goal the entire afternoon. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, were as frigid as the ice and snow outside, shooting just 37 percent for the game. The anemic offense combined with the porous defense spelled disaster for Duke.

While the dismal effort in the loss to North Carolina State was written off as something of an anomaly, the Blue Devils’ most recent defensive performance on the road raises serious concerns. Given the nature of Duke’s offense, the team cannot afford to get sucked into a fast-paced game with a team that executes the way Georgetown did on Saturday.

“When a team’s playing that well, sometimes they put you in a positions where you hurry or scurry,” Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “It’s not just their defense that does it, but its the presence that team has that day that forces you to come out and make quick decisions that are not the appropriate ones. They’re real good and well coached and just had it on us today.” 

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