Saturday’s game between Duquesne and ACU was the tale of two halves. The Dukes looked energetic and tough as they dominated the first half, but looked disinterested and soft in the second. Credit ACU’s 2-3 zone and solid ball screens for the some of the change in flow, but the Dukes struggled to avoid switching or create open looks for themselves in the second when they could easily in the first. I think you could fairly ask whether the Dukes will play more like the team we saw in the first half or the one in the second.
The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle and might even be closer to the first half side of the equation. For me, the key difference was effort and the Dukes sagged in the second half when they had a comfortable advantage. Had the game gotten any closer than it did, I suspect (or at least hope) we’d have seen the Dukes’ intensity pick back up again.
As it is with many young teams, consistency could become a problem for Duquesne not only between games but within them as well. They will need maintain the commitment to playing tough defense over the entire 40 minutes if they hope to succeed this year. They cannot afford to take a half off defensively, but the first half showed that at they have the ability to defend with conviction.
I think we should also credit some of the ACU scoring to the zebras and the new NCAA rules. The Wildcats scored almost a third of their points from the line and Duquesne allowed only 11 points before ACU hit the bonus with 7:34 remaining in the first half Thankfully, the Dukes won’t deal with the growing pains of tougher enforcement alone. Across college basketball’s first two days, scoring increased:
@GoodmanESPN 72.8 PPG in games involving D-I teams last night, up 5.8% from last year's opening night (68.8) & up 5.1% from 2011-12 (69.2)
— Kevin Pauga (@KevinPauga) November 9, 2013
While the Dukes still need to gel as a unit, they’ll have a solid advantage if they can adjust to the new officiating quicker than everyone else while maintaining their intensity. In the first half, they conceded eleven fouls with the good defense and eleven in the second with the mediocre. They can do it at least for stretches. The key to overachieving could revolve around how long they can sustain maximum defensive effort with minimal fouling. The more they play like the first half, the more they’ll win.