Washington will play the Duke Blue Devils next Saturday in New York City. Obviously, the Huskies have larger concerns, like upcoming games at Nevada and against Marquette also in NYC. Those games are far from guaranteed wins. In fact, if Washington were somehow to go 2-3 over this stretch, and it would be a huge accomplishment. If they play anywhere like they did against St. Louis, they will not only go 0-3, but they will get hammered.
Last night, the No. 3 Blue Devils went into Columbus and were handled by No. 2 Ohio State. The Buckeyes took control of the game early and never let it go. Now before you go thinking that this loss shows that Duke is somehow more vulnerable than before, think again.
OSU’s eFG% was 66.1% in this game. Not only did they score inside, but they buried open 3-point looks. Unlike UW, the Buckeyes get offensive contributions from their front line. Obviously, Jared Sullinger is a beast. You could take all the intangibles of the Huskies’ big men, combine them together, and you don’t get Sullinger. The Buckeyes aren’t much bigger than UW in terms of height, but forward DeShaun Thomas brings a scoring component to OSU, that Darnell Gant doesn’t bring.
Three things come to mind watching Duke get beat.
1. Who would guard Austin Rivers? The Duke freshman has one of the best crossovers in college basketball and gets the basket at will. Abdul Gaddy doesn’t seem quick enough. Terrence Ross and his long arms might cause issues, but he also doesn’t have the footspeed. Athletically, Tony Wroten might be the best option. Guarding Rivers would motivate Wroten, who relishes those types of challenges. But does motivation make up for fundamental defensive mistakes?
2. Gant and N’Diaye would have to avoid foul trouble. Part of what makes Sullinger good isn’t just his myriad of post moves, but his strength in defending on the block. He might not block a ton of shots, and will get shot over because he’s only about 6-9 and not a great leaper, but he doesn’t allow posts to get good position down low. He forced Mason Plumlee (the one who has some offensive game) off the block. Plumlee still made 7-of-12 shots, but Sullinger made him work for them without picking up fouls. Sullinger only averages 2.3 fouls per game.
3. Duke won’t shoot 3 of 15 from 3-point range again. This might not be the best perimeter shooting team that the Devils have rolled out on the floor. But they have guys who can shoot. The drive and kick philosophy doesn’t do much when you aren’t knocking them down. Seth Curry was 1 of 6 from 3-point range. Ryan Kelly, the Maui Invitational MVP, never even attempted a 3-point shot. OSU took their chances, allowing guys like Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton to attempt 3-point shots, they went o-for-6 combined.
Let’s get to the Pac-12 games …
Arizona went to Las Cruces, New Mexico and escaped with an 83-76 win over a pretty decent New Mexico State team.
In an 83-76 victory over New Mexico State at the Pan American Center, the Wildcats overcame early troubles in both halves by shooting well and having guards Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson basically ignore the fact that they were freshmen playing the first road game of their college careers.
“It’s always hard to win on the road in college basketball, especially in places like this,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “There’s always teams that don’t like to come and play these types of games, but one of the things you get out of coming here is you learn a lot about your team.”
Thanks to the wonders of DirecTV, I watched this game last night. First of all, the Wildcats got lucky. They were clinging to 3-point lead with 30 seconds left and they got a gift reach-in call on New Mexico State with 1 second left on the shot clock and Kyle Fogg trapped in the corner. It was an awful call and NMSU should have had the ball. Of course, Fogg missed the ensuing free throw and the Aggies failed to rebound the missed FT. So that’s an issue.
Nick Johnson failed to make ESPN’s top 10 plays for some reason. But he had about five dunks in this game and they were ridiculous. He might be the best dunker in the Pac-12 and yes I’m including OSU’s Jared Cunningham. Johnson was 8 of 14 and showed the ability to play without the ball a little. He’s going to be good.
Freshman point guard Josiah Turner had probably his best game statistically with 12 points, six assists and three rebounds. But he turned it over three times, and probably should have had a few more. He was getting to the basket against NMSU pretty easily. But the Aggies were far from sound defensively. How bad were they? Their 2-3 zone just allowed dribble penetration at will. Arizona didn’t even need to swing the basketball to get open 3-point looks. NMSU was also beaten back in transition on numerous occasions. Turner’s pretty good. I don’t know if he’s as good as the hype surrounding him. Teams are going to dare him to shoot eventually.
In Eugene, Oregon picked up a win and lost another player. The Ducks defeated UTEP, 64-59, but freshman Bruce Barron left the team, a week after Jabari Brown quit the team.
“We’ll move forward with the 13 players we have on the team,” UO coach Dana Altman said. “I’m not going to talk anymore about guys not on the team. We’ll just move on from here.”
While Altman had earlier left an opening for Brown to return, the coach made it clear Tuesday that that was no longer the case for either departed player.
“We’re past that point,” Altman said. “I want guys who want to be here (and) I think everybody else is pretty solid.
“We’re going to move forward and as long as we have enough guys to rotate in there we’ll find a way to compete.”
Barron’s playing time had totaled just 21 minutes in the past three games, after he had missed both exhibitions and the counting opener after suffering a concussion in practice. But Altman had praised him for the effort he brought in his brief appearances.
“We missed his energy,” Loyd said of his former teammate’s absence Tuesday. “He would have gotten us ready.”