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Duke Officially Back on Track After Convincing Win Over Pittsburgh





The Duke Blue Devils rolled into the Peterson Events Center on Monday night looking to extend their recent win streak to five games. After a convincing 80-65 win over Pittsburgh, the Blue Devils are back on track and should be feared as we head toward March.

Entering the second half, Duke found themselves leading the Panthers by two, 34-32. Jabari Parker had 14 first-half points to lead the Blue Devils. Coming out of the break, Duke slowly began to take control and Andre Dawkins had four second-half three pointers. With just under 10 minutes remaining, Duke jumped out to a 10-point lead and didn’t look back.

Four players, Rodney Hood (13 points), Amile Jefferson (14 points, 10 rebounds), Dawkins (20 points) and Parker (21 points, 11 rebounds) scored in double figures. Collectively, Duke shot 48 percent from the field including 13 three-pointers. They out-rebounded Pitt with 36 boards and turned in 19 assists.

The Blue Devils’ 15-point win over the Panthers was by far their best looking victory of the season. They shared the basketball well and we saw just how dangerous they can be when the shots begin to fall. Dawkins was stroking threes with ease and Jefferson contributed solid minutes in the paint.

We saw just how complete a team the Blue Devils really are. Marshall Plumlee turned in solid minutes with four rebounds. Quinn Cook added nine points of his own off the bench and we’ve already talked about Dawkins’ impressive performance off the bench. While Pittsburgh held close for much of the game, the sheer talent of the Blue Devils was overwhelming.

When Parker is on like he was on Monday, it makes the Blue Devils exponentially better. Teams have to then figure out how to stop Parker, but then that leaves other players like Dawkins or Hood open. Defenses may be able to take away one scoring threat, but then another will soon emerge for Duke.

Going forward, Duke has a fairly easy schedule, although it’s hard to call any ACC schedule easy. They have two games remaining against Syracuse, including this Saturday on the road, but they don’t have any other ranked opponents on the slate. They may have gotten off to a rocky start in ACC play, but they’ve gotten things back together.

As we have just a month and some change left until March Madness, teams should have all the kinks worked out by now. They should be playing their best basketball as they make the push for the tourney. For Mike Krzyzewski and his bunch, they seem to be doing just that.

Brian Skinnell is a freelance sports writer for RantSports.com and contributor at Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your network on Google.

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Wichita State Joins Elite Company With 20th Victory





On Wednesday night, the Wichita State Shockers improved to 20-0 by beating the Illinois State Redbirds 70-55. They join 11 other teams in college basketball to start a season 20-0 in the past 10 years.

It wasn’t easy for the Shockers, as they found themselves down by three entering the half. They had 11 turnovers heading into the break, but rebounded tremendously in the second half. They opened on a 10-1 run and never looked back. Behind 23 points and 10 rebounds from Cleanthony Early, Witchita State pulled out the victory.

The Shockers join some pretty impressive company as they become 20-0, extending their school record for the most wins to start a season. The likes of Ohio State, Syracuse, Kansas and Memphis have also started off the season 20-0 in the past 10 years. The longest streak belongs to Illinois when they went 29-0 back in the 2004-05 season.

While you can make a case against the Shockers being undefeated in a weak conference (MVC), there is something about this team that makes them special. They have a leader in Fred VanVleet, a post presence in Cleanthony Early, and Ron Baker can make plays as well. When you look back at their non-conference schedule, they topped two solid SEC schools in Tennessee at home and Alabama on the road.

They play great defense. They are ranked 12th in the country in points allowed and 23rd in defensive rebounds per game. The Shockers have been tested this season in close games, but have also shown the ability to blow teams out.

What makes them even more of a threat is the fact that can make adjustments. Entering the half against the Redbirds on Wednesday night, they didn’t look good. They were out of sorts on offense, but were still able to play solid defense. In the second half, they were a completely different team and that turnaround propelled them to the victory.

Last year, Wichita State advanced all the way to the Final Four, beating Ohio State in the Elite Eight, but lost to eventual champion Louisville by four. This year, the Shockers are looking good enough to make another run. Only this year, maybe they won’t be called Cinderella.

Brian Skinnell is a freelance sports writer for RantSports.com and a contributor at Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your network on Google.

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