Duke 97, Texas 66
It has become perhaps the most anticipated play in college basketball: Duke guard J.J. Redick catching a pass off a screen or shedding a defender on his own near the three-point line, then firing the basketball toward the rim. Each time Redick launches a three-pointer with his flawless shooting form, the Duke fans raise their arms nearly in unison, and then scream in excitement when his shot falls through the net or they sigh, almost in disbelief, when it bounces off the rim.
Sixteen times in Saturday's showdown between No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Texas at Continental Airlines Arena, Redick fired shots from beyond 19 feet 9 inches. He made nine of them and scored 41 points, both highs in his decorated career, leading the Blue Devils to a surprisingly easy 97-66 victory over the Longhorns in front of a sellout crowd of 19,579.
"Special players do amazing things in these situations, and he's a special player," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He's one of the greatest players we've had."
To have a chance at beating a No. 1 team for the first time in school history, Texas (8-1) knew it had to slow down Redick, who entered the game averaging 22.9 points and making more than 44 percent of his three-point attempts. The Longhorns tried four defenders -- P.J. Tucker, a thick 6-foot-5 forward; Daniel Gibson, an ultra-quick point guard; Kenton Paulino, an athletic swingman; and finally the nondescript J.D. Lewis -- but each of them had very little success slowing Redick.
After missing his first two shots, Redick scored 13 points in the first 8 minutes 4 seconds, and his fourth three-pointer put Duke ahead, 27-19, with about 91/2 minutes to play in the first half. The Blue Devils (9-0) led 45-33 at intermission, but then Texas cut its deficit to 47-42 on Tucker's two foul shots with 17:49 to go.
But after Longhorns forward LaMarcus Aldridge grabbed an offensive rebound and dunked to make it 50-44, Redick went back to work, running from sideline to sideline, from the top of the key to the baseline, and seemingly everywhere in between. The senior from Roanoke, Va., made his next four three-point attempts, the third of which capped the Blue Devils' 16-0 run that put them ahead 66-44 with 13:17 left.
Redick made 13 of 24 field-goal attempts, made all six of his foul shots, grabbed four rebounds and had three steals in 37 minutes. His previous career-high in points was 38 against Wake Forest on Feb. 20.
"He was comfortable," Texas Coach Rick Barnes said. "I don't think he was never not comfortable. I don't know that you could be much better."
Things could not have gone much worse for the Longhorns. They lost senior forward Brad Buckman, their third-leading scorer and strongest player to a strained calf with about 41/2 minutes left in the first half. Without Buckman, Aldridge didn't have much help in guarding forward Shelden Williams, who had 23 points on 7-for-12 shooting, 6 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.
Aldridge, 6 feet 10, scored 21 points and made 8 of 13 shots, but Texas never seemed willing to run its offense through the post.
"I think our guys have to understand LaMarcus is a pretty good basketball player," Barnes said. "We need to do a better job of getting him the ball in positions where he can make plays with it."
Duke didn't have any problem recognizing Redick was their best weapon. Krzyzewski said he curtailed his team's offense entering the game so freshmen Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts, who are both in the starting lineup, wouldn't be overwhelmed.
But when Texas failed to make many adjustments against Redick, never defending him or Williams with double-teams, Krzyzewski decided to go to his all-American guard more often, even drawing up a few new plays on the bench during timeouts.
"It's so neat to have a kid like that, when you can kind of improvise a little bit," Krzyzewski said. "He loves doing it. People get accustomed -- and he does, too -- to him running the same motions. J.J. loves to move without the ball. He makes a lot of his shots before he gets the basketball. But when we run the same plays over and over, he gets in a rut running the same motions. It's really geometry and angles -- give him different angles and he'll use them."
Asked what those new angles were, Krzyzewski grinned and said: "You should watch the tape. You'll figure it out. It's like, 'Where's Waldo?' "