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X factor: Duke basketball vs. Virginia

(03/16/14 7:43pm)

____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Duke has survived Clemson and N.C. State upset bids, and now needs an upset of its own against top-seeded Virginia Sunday afternoon in the ACC tournament championship game. The No. 6 Cavaliers survived a stiff test from Pittsburgh Saturday, but used strong defense and balanced scoring to earn a shot at the title. Tip off will be at 1 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum. Here are the X factors for both teams in the championship game.Duke: guard Quinn CookThere hasn't been much Quinnsannity since Duke's ACC opener against Notre Dame, when Cook went off for 22 points. But the junior guard, who has lost his starting role due to ineffective play, showed signes of life against N.C. State, rattling home three of his four attempts from beyond the arc, as well as he's shot from distance in a single game since knocking in 5-of-7 against Boston College Feb. 8. It's time for Cook to stop teasing the Blue Devils with glimpses of brilliance and rediscover whatever magic was working for him in nonconference play, when he was averaging 13.5 points and 6.3 assists per game. With starter Tyler Thornton in seemingly perpetual foul trouble and Rodney Hood no stranger to two first-half personals, Cook's production could be paramount for the Blue Devils if they hope to upset the Cavaliers and stake a claim to a top seed in the NCAA tournament.Virginia: guard Justin AndersonThe ACC's Sixth Man of the Year has hit the skids lately, averaging 3.7 points per game on 30.8 percent shooting in his last three games. Anderson is usually a reliable option for head coach Tony Bennett off the pine, but that hasn't been the case thus far in the ACC tournament. He has shown the ability to go off for big games—he scored 12 points against Duke on Jan. 13—but has reached his season average of 8.4 points per game just twice in his last 10 games. Duke has had a propensity for allowing big games to backup guards this tournament—Anthony Barber scored 12 Saturday and Jordan Roper had 11 Friday—which could open the door for a big day from the sophomore Anderson. Given Virginia's reliance on a balanced attack, Anderson's production may be a necessity against a team like the Blue Devils.

Beyond the Arc: Duke basketball vs. N.C. State

(03/16/14 3:57am)

____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>No. 7 Duke had a little more breathing room Saturday against N.C. State than it had against Clemson, but needed a big second half nonetheless to outlast the Wolpack 75-67. With the victory the Blue Devils earn a date with No. 6 Virginia, which ousted Pittsburgh, in the ACC tournament championship game Sunday afternoon.Revisiting the three keys to the game:

Beyond the Arc: Duke basketball vs. North Carolina

(03/09/14 6:54pm)

____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>After a tightly contested first half, Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood displayed the talent that will likely make both players lottery picks in the upcoming NBA Draft, leading No. 4 Duke to a 93-81 victory against No. 14 North Carolina in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Starting on Senior Night, Tyler Thornton, Andre Dawkins and Josh Hairston got the Blue Devils off to a fast start, but the lead would be whittled down to just three at the half. In the second half, it was Parker and Hood who took over, pushing Duke to an emotional win to wash the bad taste of the team's loss to Wake Forest out of the Blue Devils' mouths.Revisiting the three keys to the game:

Duke basketball shows its growth in victory against North Carolina

(03/09/14 10:34am)

____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>It's been the mantra for No. 4 Duke all season—this is a young team."This is not like having Ryan and [Mason] and Seth, where they already knew who they were," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said following Duke's win against Florida Atlantic Nov. 15. "And so there's a lot of growing that needs to take place."The Blue Devils have repeatedly showed their youth in big games, with foul trouble, and shooting slumps plaguing the inexperienced yet talented team. But Saturday night in its regular season finale against its arch rival, Duke (24-7, 13-5 in the ACC) showed it has grown up during the course of the turbulent season. The usual pitfalls that have resulted in losses didn't trip up the Blue Devils against No. 14 North Carolina (23-8, 13-5)."No more freshman. I don’t like getting put into that category anymore because my team needs me more than just an 18-year-old." —Jabari Parker"We’re young, and so when we get tired, or if we’re not shooting well, sometimes we go inward instead of talking more," Krzyzewski said. "It’s just something that veteran players and veteran teams don’t do."On Senior Night, Duke didn't make those young mistakes. When North Carolina rallied to cut the Blue Devil lead to single digits with 2:50 left to play, Duke didn't fall into old habits."We were in that position in the last game against Wake Forest when we let down when we had a lead," redshirt sophomore Rodney Hood said. "We were able to execute on offense and get stops, get key rebounds—Jabari [Parker] came up with at least three or four key rebounds that we needed and we hit our free throws, which was big."Sparks were provided by a number of players in the second half. Graduate student Andre Dawkins hit a big 3-pointer in the second half. Junior Quinn Cook scored 11 points to go with his six assists, the most he's doled out since Jan. 27 against Pittsburgh. Sophomore Amile Jefferson was a force on the offensive glass, corralling six of his eight rebounds on the offensive end and adding eight points of his own.Jabari Parker scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in what could be his final game in Cameron Indoor Stadium.But the big catalysts Saturday night were the Blue Devils' two youthful stars—Hood and Parker, both of whom may have played their final home games in Duke uniforms should they make the jump to the NBA as expected.Hood found himself in early foul trouble, which has become a disturbing trend for the redshirt sophomore, picking up his second personal with 3:30 remaining in the first half. However, unlike in previous games, Hood didn't disappear when he got into foul woes. He also didn't shy away from taking good shots after struggling to connect early in the second half."I think Rodney didn’t hold back tonight," Krzyzewski said. "Sometimes when he misses, he lets that get to him. He thinks that’s a mistake, and it’s not. And tonight, he didn’t play like that."Hood finished the night with 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting—just his second 20-point game since Jan. 11 against Clemson.Jabari Parker said that after a full season of college basketball, he can't be viewed as a freshman anymore.Parker, much like Hood, was "sensational", to use Krzyzewski's adjective. The freshman phenom poured in a career-high 30 points, overcoming two first-half fouls just as Hood did. Also like Hood, Parker showed his growth through his dominant play in the second period, eschewing his freshman label.“No more freshman," Parker said after recording his sixth-straight double-double. "I don’t like getting put into that category anymore because my team needs me more than just an 18-year-old. They need somebody with experience throughout the whole game.... It’s time to grow up.”Part of the growth of both Parker and Hood is the way they have played with each other. Often times this season one player has deferred to the other once someone got hot instead of keeping the pressure on the opposition by utilizing two of the best scorers in the ACC. The duo each eclipsed the 20-point plateau for just the fifth time this season, and the first time since a Nov. 24 heart-stopper against Vermont."Me and Jabari have to be there no matter what," Hood said. "That’s what we learned this whole regular season, and that’s what we have to take into postseason. We have to be there every single day for our teammates."With maturity finally starting to set in for Duke, the ACC tournament provides the opportunity for the team to prove that it has finally turned the corner and is ready to compete with the veteran-laden teams it will meet in the NCAA tournament later this month."The whole season is a process, and with this team its more of a process —not a bad process, we had more of a development," Krzyzewski said. "They listen and they work hard."

Beyond the Arc: Duke basketball vs. Wake Forest

(03/06/14 9:01am)

____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Yet again, foul trouble doomed the Blue Devils, who fell to Wake Forest 82-72 at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. No. 4 Duke went ice-cold late in the second half, resulting in a 17-0 Wake Forest run as the Blue Devils struggled to find anything on the offensive end. For the Demon Deacons, it was forwards Travis McKie and Tyler Cavanaugh carrying the load, combining for 39 points on 19-of-22 shooting from the charity stripe, taking advantage of Duke's foul woes.Revisiting the three keys to the game:

Jabari Bars delight the tenters in K-ville

(03/04/14 12:45am)

____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>The loyal tenters out in K-ville can see the light at the end of the tunnel, with less than a week to go before Duke welcomes North Carolina to Cameron Indoor Stadium for the regular season finale. To show his appreciation for the fans who have been spending their days and nights out in the cold, freshman Jabari Parker took his talents to the kitchen, baking up some Jabari Bars for K-ville nation.

Duke basketball hosts Syracuse in long-awaited rematch

(02/22/14 11:09pm)

____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>The Blue Devils do not have much time to lick their wounds following their defeat in Chapel Hill.No. 5 Duke will square off with No. 1 Syracuse in a highly-anticipated rematch Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium at 7 p.m., less than 48 hours after the Blue Devils fell to North Carolina. The contest against the Orange completes the brutal stretch of four games in eight days.

Sulaimon's role continues to expand for Duke basketball

(02/05/14 1:54pm)

____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>After the last week there will be no more talk of Rasheed Sulaimon being banished to head coach Mike Krzyzewski's doghouse."Sometimes you play well and sometimes you go through a little bit of a lull," Sulaimon said. "I’m just playing with a lot of confidence right now, and right now it’s time to go."The sophomore guard was a juggernaut for the Blue Devils Tuesday night, scoring 19 points to lead No. 11 Duke to an 83-63 win against Wake Forest—the perfect way to avenge an emotional loss to Syracuse Saturday night.With Quinn Cook nicked up and struggling to produce, Krzyzewski opted for a starting backcourt of Sulaimon and senior Tyler Thornton. Sulaimon has played bits of point guard during the course of the season, but mostly in blowouts after Cook had been removed from the game for good. Against the Orange, that all changed. Sulaimon was handed the keys to the offense, and he drove the Blue Devils through what has been the best college basketball game of the season to date.“It kind of started at the time where I wasn’t really playing that much and I was on the second unit a lot," Sulaimon said. "I just started playing a lot more point guard for the second unit and I just started developing more confidence with the ball in my hands. I just kept working on it, and kept working hard at it in practice and Coach gave me a shot tonight.”Before the Syracuse game, Sulaimon had been in another one of his ruts offensively. The guard shot a combined 2-for-15 from the floor in the two games against Florida State and Pittsburgh, though he did manage to shoot a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe. But against Syracuse Sulaimon carried the load, making big shot after big shot—most notably the 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.Against Wake Forest, Sulaimon was dynamic scoring the basketball, coming up clutch yet again when the Blue Devils needed him. Sulaimon was the only answer Duke had for Demon Deacon forward Devin Thomas in the opening minutes, as the Houston native scored five of the Blue Devils' first seven points. Sulaimon's fingerprints were also all over Duke's 18-1 run, when he assisted Rodney Hood on back-to-back jumpers and buried a triple of his own. At times, Sulaimon looked unguardable. “Rasheed’s a great player," graduate student Andre Dawkins said. "He’s one of the best attackers in the country really. Not many people can stay in front of him. He just needed to get his confidence back, get his aggressiveness back, and really just start attacking the basket. He’s been doing that the last few games and he’s been great and that’s a big help to our team."It's not just the scoring that has made Sulaimon so effective of late—it's his distributing. In his last six games, Sulaimon has had a share of the team lead in assists five times, recording four dimes in the other contest. All signs point towards him becoming more and more of a point guard."It’s a lot easier," Dawkins said of doing his job with Sulaimon on the floor. "He’s attacking, you have to make a decision to help or stay with me. Decide between a layup at the rim for him or an open shot for me, and I don’t think other teams want either one of those. All I have to do is catch it and knock it down. He does all the hard work."Put together two straight strong performances as a team for Duke and the fewest minutes in a game for Cook since Feb. 21 of last season in a 32-point blowout win against Virginia Tech, and the result may be more of Sulaimon running the show. With eight more regular season games on the docket, the Blue Devils are looking for more production from the point guard spot, and the man who watched from the bench for the entirety of the team's victory against Michigan earlier this season may be the answer. “He’s very versatile," Dawkins said. "He has a great handle of the ball and he’s also good at finding guys. He has good court vision. Most of the time you don’t really have to yell his name—he knows where you are."With another long travel game on tap when the team heads up to Boston College before a date with North Carolina at the Dean E. Smith Center next week, Sulaimon's point guard play has a couple of tough tests on the horizon. But the guard is doing all the right things to meet the challenge and continue to propel Duke forward.

HALFTIME: Duke 46, Wake Forest 33

(02/05/14 8:08am)

____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Duke struggled to find production from more than two players for much of the half, resulting in a surprisingly close game for much of the first 20 minutes of basketball. Duke rattled off a 18-1 run near the end of the half to head to the locker room with a 46-33 lead. Without leading scorer Codi Miller-McIntyre, the Demon Deacons' Devin Thomas went to work against the Blue Devils' front line, scoring the first seven Wake Forest points on 3-for-3 shooting. It was Rasheed Sulaimon's early success that kept the Blue Devils even with the Demon Deacons while Thomas was hooping early in the game. For the second-unit, it was Andre Dawkins providing instant offense—scoring nine points in the his first 2:21 of action. The rest of the Blue Devils needed more time to warm up before the offense got flowing.Observations from the first half:

Seth Curry: A look into D-League life

(02/04/14 9:03pm)

Generic ScriptSeth Curry is a professional basketball player, but that doesn't mean he's made it. The former Duke guard, like so many others, has been working tirelessly since his final game with the Blue Devils to improve his craft and make it to the show. Curry has had a couple of tastes of NBA life now, but for now he is still pressing forward, working toward to his goal of lasting in the league.Curry has played the majority of this season with the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA Development League. There are a few ways in which players can move to and from the D-League. For Curry, who is not on an NBA roster, the path to the NBA is that of your average free agent, who can be signed by any NBA club.In the early portion of the season, two players from Santa Cruz were signed from the D-League ranks to play with the Golden State Warriors—Santa Cruz's exclusive affiliate. Centers Dewayne Dedmon and Hilton Armstrong both caught the attention of Golden State, while Curry continued to ply his wares in the minor leagues.