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Tomko: Zoubek Soars in First Start of Season
Wednesday 02/13/2010  -  Michael Tomko, GoDuke.com
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Courtesy: Lance King
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DURHAM, N.C. -- Nothing about the way Brian Zoubek played Saturday afternoon against the Maryland Terrapins surprised Nolan Smith.

Smith actually knew the senior center was due for a game like this.

In his first start of the season, Zoubek scored 16 points, set a career-high with 17 rebounds, eight offensive, and had two blocks in 22 minutes. It was his second double-double this season and the fourth of his career.

"It definitely is [the best game of my career]," Zoubek said. "It feels great.  I'm just playing a lot more aggressive and just feel good out there.  I feel like I'm in really good shape, and it's been a long time since I've been all together."

The last Duke player with 15 or more rebounds in fewer than 25 minutes played was Chris Burgess who had 16 rebounds in 19 minutes against Fresno State on Nov. 27, 1998.

"He [Zoubek] has been tremendous this year," Smith said. "The thing that has surprised me is the way he moves on the court now. A lot of guys look at him, see him in film, and it is like man Zoubs you're slow, making fun of him, but it hasn't been like that this year. Every game it is like man Zoubs made that play or the Boston College play where he ran [Joe] Trapani off that three."

His improved fluidity on the court is leading to Zoubek keeping the ball alive on the offensive boards, protecting the Duke basket, and getting tip-in baskets on the offensive end.

Zoubek's play this afternoon gave the team an emotional lift as they knocked off Maryland 77-56.

Every time the Terrapins threatened to cut Duke's lead, which at one point reached 24, Zoubek seemed to make a play around the basket to shift momentum to Duke's favor.

"I thought our defense was outstanding today and Brian [Zoubek] was spectacular," head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was honored for his 1,000th game as the Duke head coach following the game, said. "He had 16 points, 17 rebounds...cleaned up a lot, eight offensive boards. And they were such uplifting buckets. He was even playing above the rim."

His most rim shaking and crowd inspiring play came early in the second half, when Kyle Singler's three pointer from the top of the arc bounced off the rim. In one motion Zoubek jumped, caught and dunked the basketball through the hoop.

"His dunk shocked the world," Smith said. "ESPN needs to make that a top 10 [play] right now just because it was Zoubs. He may not have been high, he may not have been like LeBron [James], but whatever LeBron [James] does in his next game or in whatever they have, Zoubs got the number one play in my book."

Krzyzewski credits the conditioning of Zoubek this season as the reason for his ability to stay on the court against a Maryland team with smaller, quicker forwards.

"He has been completely healthy and has taken great care of himself," Krzyzewski said. "Today, it is obvious to everybody what he did, but really, he has had an outstanding year thus far."

"This was definitely a matchup [against Maryland] that I wouldn't have played in the past years," Zoubek said. "They would've spread it out a little bit.  It just proves that my footwork has gotten a lot better and I can handle it.  I'm just happy to be able to be out there on the court."

Zoubek earned the start following Krzyzewski and the rest of his staff deciding that the Blue Devils needed another veteran presence on the floor, with Lance Thomas being a question mark if he would even play, let alone start.

In the end, the two of them gave Duke the veteran leadership in the front court.

"We just felt with...we didn't know that Lance [Thomas] would be able to play until late and Lance brings such energy to our team and defense and even though that he is playing, he is not playing at 100 percent," Krzyzewski said. "I just felt and the staff felt that we needed another veteran in there. Brian would be, the two of them together, would give us that energy."


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