College Park -- Duke is ranked No. 2, but J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams are a combination second to none in college basketball.
The Blue Devils need another offensive option if they're going to make a meaningful run at an NCAA title, however, which made the output of freshman point guard Greg Paulus against Maryland yesterday so significant.
Redick's "quiet" 35 points got a boost from late free throws. Shot selection got Williams his 26, but the point could be made that Paulus was the difference.
The freshman point guard played 38 minutes and had a game-high seven assists, numbers that coach Mike Krzyzewski has come to expect. What came as a surprise were the career highs of 16 points and four three-pointers, which matched the long-range output of Redick.
Paulus made three three-pointers in the first 11 minutes. That's how many he had in Duke's 10 previous Atlantic Coast Conference games. He hadn't made one in six games, since Duke's last trip inside the Capital Beltway, a Jan. 21 loss to Georgetown.
"In my mind," Paulus said, "it's been a lot longer than three weeks."
Maryland was the latest opponent to dare Paulus and others. The first of Duke's 11 three-pointers came from Sean Dockery. Asked if he has had any conversations with Dockery and Paulus about looking for their shots, Krzyzewski answered, "Many."
"So much attention goes to J.J. and Shelden," Paulus said, "guys like me and Sean and DeMarcus [Nelson], we're going to get an opportunity. We understand that we need to contribute a little bit more offensively. Sometimes we rely on J.J. and Shelden so much, they [opponents] lay off us, and we're not making them pay."
All of Paulus' threes came on wide-open looks, the result of his defender sloughing off to help on Redick. The last came with 8:50 left. Redick drew a double team on the right, and lobbed a cross-court pass to Paulus, who made it 72-58.
A big-time quarterback recruit out of Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, N.Y., Paulus is viewed as the best pure point guard prospect at Duke since Bobby Hurley, who piloted the Blue Devils to NCAA titles in 1991 and '92.
One sequence midway through the second half displayed the disparity of options ACC point guards have in distributing the ball.
Duke isolated Williams on the right block, Paulus drove to that side, and his textbook bounce pass turned into an easy bank shot for the big man. At the other end, Parish Brown made a weak entry to one of the Terps' lean big men, who had failed to establish position. Duke converted that turnover into a Redick three.
"You would have thought we had a junior or senior out there," Krzyzewski said, "the way he was calling things out, protecting the ball, really being strong with the ball and then taking shots. He was a leader on the court today, which we haven't had completely."
Redick came in with 408 career threes, five short of the NCAA record. On an afternoon in which Maryland seemed determined to avoid that bit of history, Redick eschewed the three in the first half. If Paulus continues to emerge as a perimeter threat, will that make life easier for Redick?
"He could hit nine a game and teams are still not going to be honest," Redick said. "Teams are still going to shade on me and Shelden." firstname.lastname@example.org