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Bears erupt to let Duke reign


Mark Woods

Duke University 93 (Davis 30, Blalock 16)
Brighton Bears 85 (Ewing 18, Williams 14)

Brighton Bears came so close to blowing Duke University off the floor. Instead they simply blew up as the touring Blue Devils ripped from 22 points down to claim a second victory of their four game pre-season tournament on Monday afternoon at Crystal Palace.

Combusting in the final quarter of what had begun an ultra-physical game, Nick Nurse’s team lost Rico Alderson to a technical foul with three minutes left and then saw Sterling Davis summarily ejected by ACC referee Mike Wood moments after as the Blue Devils breezed by for a fortunate win.

“It was really unfair,” said Nurse afterward, perhaps justifiably. And it undid the earlier dominance which the Bears had displayed in giving the Americans an early lesson in the pneumatics of professional basketball.

After losing to London the previous night, the trip has been a positive learning experience for Mike Krzyzewski’s youthful squad. “It’s been great,” he acknowledged. “We just wanted to see a lot of our players and help them develop.”

It’s been an instructive spell for some of those who had come along for the ride. “Why are they dunking in warm-ups?” asked Paul Doran of the Duke Chronicle, oblivious to the fact the BBL players have to take these chances when they come.

Others had a harder time with the variants of the English language. Andy Katz, esteemed scribe from ESPN, wasn’t so sure what happened when the scores were levelled at 16-16 late in the opening period.

“What’s that mean?” he cried, proving beyond reasonable doubt that our linguistic legacy to the New World was somehow squandered along the way. Just be grateful that a tape of Derby Storm never found its way into Sportscenter’s hands. National Lampoon, eat your heart out.

There has been some genuine surprise that college basketball in the UK, to quote the Harlem globetrotting Katz, does not “even register a blip on England's sports radar screen.” Yet Duke’s players will not forget in a hurry the emphasis laid down by their coach after a lethargic first half display.

Sparked by Davis – who would score a game-high 30 points – Brighton pulled ahead at the close of the first and rolled away, Duke struggling horribly to convert from the closest of ranges.

Down 50-28 after a 21-7 burst midway through the second quarter, it looked like a lop-sided rout on the cards despite an 8-0 rally from Duke which cut the gap to 16 at the half.

However with Randy Duck benched for the entire third quarter after picking his fourth foul just before the interval, Brighton ceded momentum. 

Dahntay Jones trimmed the deficit again after Emiko Etete picked up a technical and a further eight without reply around the final break awoke the smattering of Dookie supporters.

JJ Redick proved himself an assassin, living up to his billing as a shooting supremo. After missing his two previous attempts, he buried a trey to bring Duke back to 75-70. Then highly-touted freshman gunner Daniel Ewing drive the nail in, firing 13 of his team-best 18 points in the closing ten minutes as the Bears feel miserably away.

He converted from the line after Alderson’s departure and the Nick Horvath put Duke in front for the first time since the opening period with 2:38 left.

That was game over. Davis soon departed, followed by Etete after his fifth foul. And it was left to Redick and Ewing to complete the comeback.

“That’s a good team,” said Krzyzewski in praise of the BBL outfit. “Those guys can shoot but when Duck got in foul trouble, it really hurt them.”

He added: “Even if we had lost that game, with that effort it would have been a win for us. That we won was a real plus.”

Ralph Blalock added 16 for Brighton.

In Monday night's second game, Duke avenged their loss to Towers of 24 hours earlier with an 89-70 win, giving many of their lesser lights an extended show.

The Blue Devils, who were led by Redick's 16 points, did not trail after taking a 5-3 lead in the first quarter on a Casey Sanders' lay-up just 1:35 into the game. 

The collegians controlled the game's tempo from the start, running when available and pacing themselves when necessary while Towers saved their energies for domestic trials ahead - going scoreless in the final three minutes as Duke closed with a 10-0 burst.

"Everything has been great," Krzyzewski said. "Now if we just get through customs without any problems then everything should be fine."

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