Devils await Scheyer's scoring resurgence

Staff WriterMarch 26, 2010 

— It's not as though Jon Scheyer spent the week with a shot consultant, but the Duke guard has undergone a good deal of shooting-motion self-analysis.

There's nothing wrong with his delivery that bagging a couple of early 3-pointers tonight against Purdue in the South Regional semifinals won't fix.

But just in case the shooting problem continues to elude correction for the team's top scorer, the Blue Devils' Plan A for this NCAA tournament hasn't changed.

"We'll still rely on our defense more than anything else," Scheyer said Thursday in Reliant Stadium. "As long as we play great defense, we'll be OK. That doesn't change no matter who's hitting and who's not."

Of late, it's been mostly "not" for the senior centerpiece of Duke's offense. In two easy early-round wins this past weekend over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and California in Jacksonville, Fla., Scheyer went a combined 5-for-18, including 1-for-11 against California. He hasn't had a genuinely big shooting show since going 8-for-14 at Virginia on Feb. 28.

After Sunday's results in the second round, Scheyer went back to Durham and spent some quality time with himself in the film room as the top-seeded Devils (31-5) prepared for the fourth-seeded Boilermakers (29-5). He even woke up one night, turned on the television and saw ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb breaking down a scouting report in which Scheyer was sized up as a good-right, bad-left marksman when shooting on the move.

"But mechanically, I don't think there's anything wrong," Scheyer said. "I think against Cal, I started thinking too much and tried to guide a few shots, and a couple of times, I think I had my feet maybe kicked out too wide on the release. But there's nothing specific I need to change."

And as for Gottlieb's observations, Scheyer said he likes going to his right but no more than to his left.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski agrees with that conclusion, but he did advise Scheyer to simplify his motives. When Scheyer said he "pressured" himself to hit shots against Cal to break open the game, Krzyzewski said that's shooting for the wrong reason.

"I told Jon not to worry about other things when he's shooting," Krzyzewski said. "When you shoot, just focus on shooting that one shot - not what it might mean to increasing the lead or things like that. He doesn't shoot the same shot each time. That means you're thinking about different things."

But big picture, Krzyzewski says he's not sweating the much-discussed Scheyer Slump.

"I'm not worried," the coach said. "I just want him to enjoy himself and not put too much weight on each shot."

Another factor - maybe the factor - is no one stays as busy in the offense as Scheyer.

Against a succession of aggressive defenders this season, he has committed only 61 turnovers in 36 games - an amazing stat for the guy who has to bring the ball up court almost every possession. During the past six games, he had only seven turnovers total. Some decent playmakers have that many in a game.

"A huge thing [for the primary ball-handler] is the ability to concentrate on your shot when you get it because you're always concentrating so much on running your team," Krzyzewski said.

As a sophomore in 2007-08, Scheyer shot a career-best 44.4 percent. That season, he operated almost entirely on the wing while Greg Paulus ran the point.

Since becoming the lead ball-handler last season, Scheyer has seen his shooting percentage slip to 39.7.

The Scheyer defensive assignment for Purdue probably will fall to E'Twaun Moore, a perimeter stopper, although Boilermakers coach Matt Painter made it clear Thursday that a Scheyer bust-out performance is high on his fret list.

"All great shooters go through these periods," Painter said. "But I've known him since he was 14. ... He's going to make plays and make shots."

There's a way for Duke to get out of Houston alive and on to the Final Four with Scheyer's right arm still playing dead. But the longer this thing drags out, the more likely it becomes that Duke will trip.

caulton.tudor@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8946

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