Duke-Villanova battle in Boston tonight

Posted by Andy Durham on March 26, 2009 at 9:28 am under College | Comments are off for this article

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Round of 16
Duke vs. Villanova
9:57 PM
Boston, Mass. (NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16)
TV: CBS

from Michael Tomko at goduke.com
BOSTON — Nolan Smith and Gerald Henderson have a reason to be a little extra amped for Thursday night’s game in Boston and it has nothing to do with the fact that the Blue Devils are playing in the Sweet 16.

It has to do with the fact that both of the current Blue Devils fathers’ donned Celtic green during one time in their career and both actually wore the same jersey number (43) during their stints with Boston.

On Wednesday the two talked about the fact that both their father’s once played for Boston on their bus ride over to the TD Banknorth Garden.

The Celtics were the last team that Smith’s father, Derek, played for before retiring. He spent the 1990-91 season with Boston.

“It feels great to be in this arena,” Smith said. “My dad played here, Gerald’s dad played here, that’s a great feeling to be on the court where our pops played.”

For Henderson, his Dad, Gerald, spent five seasons (1979-1984) with the Celtics.

“It’s pretty nice to be playing in Boston, where my dad had his best years as a pro,” Henderson said. “It’s pretty cool to be playing in the same place as him.”

The younger Henderson and Smith will look to create some of their own magic on the court tonight against Villanova with tipoff scheduled for 9:57 p.m.

The game will be Duke’s fourth game played after 8 o’clock in the last six contests, but the late start and all day waiting hasn’t seemed to bother the Blue Devils as they have won all four of those games.

“It is good because you have all day to get your mind ready for the game, and once you are out there it’s like let’s go,” Lance Thomas said.

The No. 3 seeded Wildcats (28-7) play a similar style on both ends of the floor as the Blue Devils.

Villanova should present the biggest challenge in the past two weeks for the Blue Devils.

“They play a lot of guards and they spread the ball pretty well and they shoot the ball fairly well from the outside,” Kyle Singler said. “Their game and our games are alike. They are a very good team.”

Dante Cunningham, the Wildcats leading scorer and tallest starter at 6’8”, is averaging 16.3 points per game and 7.3 rebounds. Scottie Reynolds, the Villanova point guard, is second on the team averaging 15.1 points per game.

Their third double-digit scorer is Corey Fisher with 10.9 points per game, but comes off the bench for the Wildcats.

“Yeah, I think we’re similar in a lot of respects,” Krzyzewski said. “I think the very first thing is we don’t have players who are positioned. We have basketball players, whether it be — you’re not going to call Cunningham a center, but you call him a really good player. Reynolds, he can play with the ball or off the ball.”

Four Blue Devils are averaging double figures in the NCAA Tournament this season. The usual core of Henderson, Singler and Jon Scheyer has averaged double-digit points all season. Henderson is averaging 18.5 points in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, while Singler is averaging 13.5 and Scheyer 14.0.

Smith is the fourth Blue Devil to average double digits in the NCAA Tournament. The sophomore guard is averaging 12.0 points per game coming off the bench shooting 7-of-12 (.583) from the field.

Villanova also plays physical defense, something that Duke has prided itself on all season.

“We are going to have to play Duke defense,” Smith said. “We know they are a great team and we match up great against them. We are going to play our defense and really just go after it.”

With the matchup being even in so many ways, Duke averages 78.1 points per game and allows 65.6, while Villanova averages 77.0 points and allows 67.1, both teams will need their highest level of effort and execution to win.

“When we play somebody, nobody is mystified,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “You’ve got to beat them. Villanova is a team that they don’t lose, you have to beat them. And I would hope that we’re the same type of team.”


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