Don't hang your heads, Terrier fans; there are many things hidden within this 29-point loss to be proud of.
You have to love the effort of this Terrier squad. Eric Garcia, with jaw tied up after surgery, played his heart out tonight, despite the obvious disadvantages brought onto him from the injury -- things some may not think twice about when watching a basketball contest. Things like hampered communication on the court, especially at a place like Cameron Indoor Stadium, where you can lose your head in a hurry, or when breathing becomes a rocky endeavor, with less air than usual entering.
Yes, despite all that, the sophomore from Aurora, Colo., endured twenty-seven minutes of court time, in which he scored eight points -- including a clutch three early into the tilt -- and three assists. Karl Cochran led the team with thirteen points against the punishing Duke defense, while Lee Skinner took away something even more special from the game.
After hanging at a career tally of 999 points for several minutes of play -- which must have felt like an eternity in the hostile Durham, N.C., environment -- the senior shot over the millennium mark with a jump hook before the under-eight minute timeout in the second half.
The Terriers also played it closer than the scoreboard indicated at the end of the game. In fact, the heavily-mismatched visitors hung tight and even had a brief lead early in the first half. Down by just seven at the break, Wofford began to feel the Blue Devils pull away, as they posted a 7-0 run to open the second half of play, and maintained a steady separation from the Terriers for the remainder of the contest.
With just about seven minutes to go, the Terriers cut the deficit to fourteen points, but the final ticks of the clock wholly belonged to the home squad, as they scored the last thirteen points of the ballgame en route to a 29-point win -- the largest amount in between the two sides of the entire afternoon.
Still, although the Terriers had their obvious weaknesses -- they provided a myriad of chances for Duke, and were in heavy foul trouble in the first half -- they arguably showed some improvement from their last foray onto the hardwood against Bob Huggins' West Virginia team. For instance, Wofford coughed the basketball up twelve times in the first half in WVU Coliseum, but only on five instances in the first twenty minutes against Duke today.
All in all, the Terriers committed thirteen turnovers, a healthy eight less than the twenty-one given up against the Mountaineers. For a second there, before the late Blue Devil charge, it looked as if Wofford would suffer a much lower margin of defeat than at West Virginia. However, it ended up being four points less, which is still astounding, considering the sheer strength of both opponents.
Duke took advantage of the Wofford foul trouble by achieving a 72 percent success rate at the charity stripe, going 18-25. The Terriers, who shot 38 percent from the field, were called for twenty-one fouls as a team this afternoon.
"We got better in here today," coach Mike Young proclaimed in a postgame press conference. "We left some things on the table, and I didn't like the outcome, but we got better."
There's always room for improvement, but in this writer's opinion, today's contest, despite the outcome, was a large, hopeful step forward for this squad. In fact, it should serve as a useful gauge of where the program is and where it could be; we should have everything fall into place in the following weeks, when we embark on a SoCon journey.
It all starts here, so get buckled in; it's going to be a fun ride.