Redick's game-altering shots demoralize Texas
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- J.J. Redick threw this question out to all national championship hopefuls trying to figure out if they're worthy contenders: Who else can take over a game like him?
At the least, Saturday's matchup pitting No. 1 Duke against No. 2 Texas now seems to have been overhyped as Redick, the Blue Devils' all-American senior guard, pasted a career-high 41 points on the Longhorns.
Really, can any player change a game like Redick?
Can Rudy Gay of Connecticut? Can Villanova's Randy Foye or Allan Ray? What about Maurice Ager of Michigan State, or Terrell Everett and/or Taj Gray at Oklahoma, or Darius Washington and/or Shawne Williams of Memphis? The Longhorns' LaMarcus Aldridge certainly showed flashes of dominance in the post, but he'll first need teammates to recognize that he's a go-to guy, something Texas coach Rick Barnes spelled out after the game.
OK, we've got one guy for sure who measures up to Redick in game-changing impact -- Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, who banked in a 3-pointer over two Oklahoma State Cowboys with 2.5 seconds left for a 64-62 win Saturday in Seattle. Morrison's winner comes on the heels of 43-point performances in a win against Michigan State in triple overtime in Maui, and in a Dec. 4 loss at Washington.
The nation needs a comparison to Redick, but the Zags have only a handful of national games left (at Memphis, and maybe vs. Stanford) before they slide into a rebuilding West Coast Conference for the next few months.
Redick does have a teammate who also can alter the flow of a game in Shelden Williams. Williams did score 30 against Memphis in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden two weeks ago. Still, it was nothing compared to the exhibition Redick left folks to think about Saturday.
"That's as good as they come," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "For me, in coaching, it's up there with any game any kid has had for me."
Redick 3-point shots are a sight to behold. How they're created, when they're hoisted and, what how they alter games is very hard to match.
|Texas vs. No. 1 teams|
|*NCAA Midwest Regional|
"Their team feeds off of J.J. and once he gets going, the crowd gets into it and then it's tough to make runs when he's knocking down those shots," said Texas senior forward Brad Buckman, who played only seven minutes after injuring his right calf. "It's hard to get back into the flow of the game."
Think about this: Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski said the Blue Devils coaching staff knows that every team's No. 1 objective is to stop Redick from making 3-pointers.
"So, when he's able to make them, and make multiple 3s, the coaching staff is upset and the players know that they're not doing the No. 1 thing on their list for the game," Wojciechowski said.
And Redick senses any sign of defensive weakness, something that has been a learned behavior for him while at Duke.
"I was moving really well without the ball and they threw a lot of different defenders at me, but each guy that was guarding me, I could see he was a little bit winded," Redick said. "I felt strong for most of the game."
Redick is admittedly in the best shape of his life and it shows in his minutes. He played 37 Saturday, and if the game was in any doubt he would have played the full 40 -- as he did in Duke's recent 75-67 victory at Indiana, scoring 29 points to Williams' 30.
Look, Texas did get to within five at 47-42 in the second half before Redick hit three 3s during a five-minute, 22-4 run that pushed Duke's lead to 23.
"I think at times they're back-breakers for the other team and momentum for us," Redick said. "I think a couple of them in the second half hurt their confidence."
Crushing a team's "mo" doesn't just happen for Redick. It's cultivated.
"I put the best pressure on him in practice, but then he'll knock them down and you're like 'ahhhh,' you can't stop him," Duke senior point guard Sean Dockery said. "He's unstoppable. When he's in a zone like that it's like throwing a rock in a lake for him. He's on fire. All of our guys enjoy it. No one is jealous."
Jealous? Who could be when Redick is carrying the team to a December blowout victory like this one? Key word being December. While Redick bolstered his player-of-the-year résumé Saturday -- he's likely competing with Morrison at this juncture -- we're a long ways from January. While Texas has time to find itself (for starters, getting Aldridge to be the focal point, and having Daniel Gibson run the offense more fluidly), Duke is hardly a completed work. Remember, Dockery's 40-foot shot saved the Blue Devils from a home loss to Virginia Tech just last Sunday.
"I know we're No. 1 in the country but we're still developing," Redick said. "But we definitely needed a game like this. It wasn't about No. 1 vs. No. 2 or any of that hoopla. It was about proving that we could compete and beat an elite team like Texas, and put them away."
Duke passed this test, with Redick scoring an A. Question is, what other program has a player who can tear apart another national title contender like he did? For now, Morrison is the only one. We'll see if that list grows itself in the next three months.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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