Nolan Smith had 29 points, seven rebounds, and six assists as Duke beat Virginia 76-60 on Saturday afternoon.
Looking at that final, you’d think that the Blue Devils cruised to another conference win.
The truth is much uglier. The Blue Devils used a 43-18 run over the last 16 minutes of the game to erase a nine point deficit and put away the Cavs, but for those first 24 minutes, some of the issues that were evident in Duke’s loss to Florida State once again shone through.
The biggest issue?
Duke’s tendency to rely on the three pointer. They were 1-12 in the first half as Virginia built their lead. They were 4-8 during the 43-18 run.
This is a team with shooters up and down their lineup. Nolan Smith, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, Kyle Singler. The problem with having that many shooters is that too often you see the Blue Devils settle. Open threes are good shots, especially when they come in rhythm or when a player can step into it. But when Duke goes through a stretch like they did in the first half — when they took seven threes in the span of eight possessions — is when they run into trouble.
I’m not saying that Duke shouldn’t shoot threes.
In fact, I believe quite the opposite. With the number of good shooters that the Blue Devils have, they would be dumb to cut threes out of their offensive game plan. But there is a such thing as a good three and a bad three.
In the first half, Duke took too many threes off the dribble and with a hand in their face. In the second half, the threes they took — and more importantly, the three they hit — came off of an offensive rebound, in transition, or off of a kick out. They were open shots, they were catch-and-shoots, and they came when the shooter was in rhythm.
The problem with relying heavily on threes is that they are low-percentage shots, and if you go cold its easy to miss seven or eight in a row, regardless of how good of a shooter you or team is.
That’s why it is important to take “good” threes.
When Duke turned it on against Virginia, it was when they were taking good threes.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.