Josh McRoberts doesn't want to be a leader. DeMarcus Nelson doesn't have what
it takes to be one. The rest of the team is just too young.
Greg Paulus may not be Bobby Hurley, but the Duke sophomore point guard sure did
his best gutsy imitation in a victory over No. 22 Gonzaga in front of a packed
house at Madison Square Garden.
McRoberts and Paulus were supposed to take the reigns after J.J. Redick and
Shelden Williams left. However, Paulus suffered a broken bone in his left foot
on the second day of practice and has been crucified by many for his lackluster
Paulus even came off the bench for three games because of his
ineffectiveness. He was averaging just 6.4 points and had nearly as many
turnovers (36) as assists (42) coming into the game.
Even one of his older brothers (he has four) was chiding him that Gonzaga's
Derek Raivio was a better floor leader.
Paulus responded with the best performance of his 47-game college career -
finishing with a career-high 20 points and dishing out four assists with just
``It's about time," a grinning Paulus said after the game.
Paulus made shots when no one else could knock them down. He finished with
eight of Duke's anemic 20 points before the break. However, despite the Blue
Devils shooting just 23 percent, they trailed by just one at halftime.
While Raivio struggled miserably and finished with just four points on four
field-goal attempts, Paulus continued to do what Duke fans have yearned for
since he spurned an opportunity to play quarterback and point guard at Notre Dame to play for Coach K.
He ran the team, got open shots for his teammates and picked up the scoring
slack when they weren't converting the open looks.
``He played like he can," McRoberts said. ``He played like the leader we
need him to be."
``This was his best game," added Duke assistant and former player Chris Collins. "He was great. He just had that look that he was in charge."
It was a look that had been lacking for much of the season as he recovered
from the foot injury.
``It took more time than I thought and I was frustrated," Paulus said.
"I wanted it to come back and it didn't happen right away. But now I can
see my instincts coming back and I'm being more aggressive."
``I felt like I had to step up tonight because we weren't making shots,"
he added. "This was the first game I was aggressive from start to
Paulus even displayed some of the pigskin toughness when he returned to the
game moments after getting five stitches on his chin after diving on the floor
near a table on the sideline.
This may not be your typical Duke team, but the Blue Devils keep on finding
ways to win.
They barely got past Indiana, Georgetown, Holy Cross, George Mason and Kent State - all at home. Yes, they were 10-1 - but people were shaking their heads
as the Blue Devils continued to move up the polls to the No. 6 spot.
However, this victory not only proved that Paulus can play, but also that the
Blue Devils can beat a quality team away from Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue
Devils averaged 17 turnovers in the first 11 games. They committed just six
Credit Paulus for taking care of the ball and making quality decisions.
Credit McRoberts for his phenomenal passing ability.
``You just don't see guys 6-foot-11 pass the ball like Josh," Paulus
Credit freshman Jon Scheyer for chasing Raivio around for what seemed like an
It was the first-ever meeting between the powerhouse that Coach K has built
and the mid-major power that Mark Few has taken to another level more than 2,600
The Zags played well enough to hold a double-digit lead entering the second
half, especially with the stellar play of Abdullahi Kuso (8 points, 6 rebounds,
5 blocks). But the margin was a single point and Kuso, Raivio and talented
freshman Matt Bouldin were all virtually invisible in the final 20 minutes.
In fact, the only player who stepped up offensively was guard Jeremy Pargo,
who finished with 21 points.
``We're not into moral victories," Pargo said. "We've proven we can
While Gonzaga returns back to Spokane on a two-game losing streak, Duke and
its point guard will go into the holidays with a renewed sense of confidence.
``I'm still trying to get better. I'm still not where I'd like to be,"
But the hug and smile from his coach in the hallway after the game said