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Ryan Craig

Duke a different team with Nolan Smith

Posted November 17, 2009

24 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals and one win.

That was Nolan Smith’s stat line from Duke’s 101-59 victory over Charlotte Tuesday night, an evening that saw Smith notch his career-high in points, and Duke find its offensive rhythm.

As with any early-season game against an obviously out-manned opponent, the enthusiasm of coaches and fans should be tempered, but on this night, it’s easy to see why Blue Devils’ head coach Mike Krzyzewski was so eager to get his starting shooting guard back in the lineup.

After scoring 74 points all game against Coastal Carolina Monday night, the same short-handed Duke team that was supposed to be tired after playing on back-to-back nights tallied 57 in the first half alone.

Smith’s effect on the Duke offense was multi-faceted, as the former Oak Hill standout left his fingerprints on nearly every aspect of Coach K’s attack against the 49ers.

The transition baskets that starting point guard Jon Scheyer admitted were missing from Duke’s wins over UNC-Greensboro and Coastal Carolina, were easier to come by with Smith’s on-ball pressure creating turnovers at the three-point line and beyond.

The shots that Scheyer was forced to sacrifice in the name of running Duke’s half-court offense in the team’s first two games, were now his to be had with Smith capable of periodically running the show.

The result?

Scheyer made more shots Tuesday night (seven) than he attempted (five) the night before.

Add to that Smith’s touch from long range (2-3 from three-point land) and ability to break Charlotte down off the dribble, and suddenly the Kyle Singler-Scheyer two-headed monster from less than 24 hours before had grown a third appendage.

In fact, if you just took the scoring totals from Singler, Scheyer and Smith alone, Duke still would have won Tuesday night, 61-59.

Duke will find out a lot about itself in the next few weeks when it plays teams like Arizona State, UConn, Wisconsin and Gonzaga – but Tuesday night the rest of the college basketball world got confirmation of something it might have suspected, but that the Blue Devils’ players and coaches already knew:

The Blue Devils are a different and much more dangerous team on both ends of the floor when number two takes the floor at the start of a game.

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