DURHAM, N.C. – It was everything one expects from Duke, clicking offense, solid defense and excellent coaching.
And it was everything one has come to expect from Michigan this season – lots of effort but ultimately another loss.
The end result of all these expectations was an 81-59 win for the Blue Devils.
In the last two games, Duke has been able to jump out to large leads against the Wolverines – a 34-8 lead last year and a 34-2 lead two years ago. But this year, Michigan coach Tommy Amaker made it a priority to prevent Duke from getting out in front too early.
“The history of this Duke and Michigan rivalry in the past is that they just come in and try to get the knock out punch early, and we were not going to let them do that,” Michigan freshman Daniel Horton said.
The Blue Devils scored first on a 3-pointer by Chris Duhon. But instead of letting Duke go on a run, it was the Wolverines who made a surge, scoring the next seven points of the game. They stayed competitive for the first 10 minutes of the first half and held their first lead over Duke since 1999. But the Blue Devils rallied back with an eight-point run to take a 16-11 lead – a lead they would never relinquish.
One of the most interesting matchups of the game was Duke’s Dahntay Jones against LaVell Blanchard. Instead of using a larger player to guard Michigan’s leading rebounder and scorer, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski gave the responsibility of checking Blanchard to the smaller, quicker Jones.
The strategy worked as Jones limited Blanchard to nine points and just four rebounds in the game. The senior captain also led Michigan with seven turnovers.
“Blanchard is really a perimeter player. He is, I think, their best 3-point shooter,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We wanted Dahntay on him.”
Turnovers again plagued the Wolverines, who had 25 turnovers in the game, including 19 in the first half.
“We’ve been really concentrating on our team defense and helping one another out,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re not just moving individually, we are moving collectively and helping one another out. That’s how you get the turnovers.”
Duhon, who left the game early because of a wrist injury, shined on defense for the Blue Devils, collecting six steals. The junior also starred on the offensive end by scoring 15 points and five assists.
Duhon could have had more points, but he unselfishly laid the ball off to his teammates many times, including Jones, who pleased the crowd with spectacular wind-mill dunks.
“(Duhon) has shown great leadership, and even today in how he was passing on the break,” Mike Krzyzewski. “He probably could have scored about three or four more buckets on his own but he is always looking for somebody else. He wants these guys to get going.”
Despite the loss, even Krzyzewski gave credit to the Wolverines, especially the defense which held the Blue Devils to just 17 percent from beyond the arc. Krzyzewski repeatedly expressed his respect for Michigan and the game it played Saturday.
“They haven’t won yet, but I think they are on the verge of starting to win,” Krzyzewski said. “They played really hard today. They had a good look on their faces, Michigan did.”