Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Blue Devils working on defense

DURHAM – In both of Duke’s preseason exhibition games, the Blue Devils had stretches when they struggled to stop their opponents on the perimeter.

Bellarmine made eight 3-pointers, including five in the first half. Shaw got excellent penetration from its guards and shot 50 percent from the field in the first half.

It should be no surprise, then, that No. 6-ranked Duke has spent a lot of time working on its defense in recent days as Friday’s 9 p.m. opener against Belmont approaches.

Junior Seth Curry said the Blue Devils guards are working on pressuring the ball and preventing dribble penetration.

“You’ve got to do both,” Curry said during a media availability Tuesday afternoon. “It’s tough.”

Other players said the Blue Devils have had a tendency to watch the ball too often and haven’t been quick enough to react in help side defense when a guard gets beaten off the dribble.

Defending the 3-point arc will be the most urgent objective against a strong season-opening opponent. Belmont ranked third in the nation last season with 9.3 3-pointers per game and returns four players who started in last season’s NCAA tournament loss to Wisconsin.

Belmont finished 30-5 last season.

“We know they’re good,” Curry said, “so we’re preparing like it’s an ACC game or whatever. It’s great to play a game right out of the gate that we have to be prepared for.”

Schedule a challenge. Duke’s early schedule should be a significant challenge for a team with just one scholarship senior that lost standouts Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving from last season.

The opener should be difficult, even though Belmont doesn’t have a big name. The Blue Devils will play Michigan State and Ohio State from the Big Ten, and neither game will be at Cameron Indoor Stadium. In the Maui Invitational, Duke will meet Tennessee, Michigan or Memphis and then probably a third strong opponent.

All this will take place before the end of November and should test the Blue Devils’ youth immediately.

“I think that was kind of the mind set in making the schedule like that,” said junior guard Andre Dawkins. “But at the same time, I think it will bring the best out of our guys.”

Milestone approaches. With coach Mike Krzyzewski nearing the Division I career victories record, Duke’s players are facing inevitable questions about what it will be like to be a part of the team that helps the coach reach a milestone.

Krzyzewski has 900 wins and needs three more to surpass his mentor, Bob Knight. The record could fall as early as Nov. 15, when the Blue Devils meet Michigan State at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Players say it will mean a lot to be part of the celebration, but said Krzyzewski doesn’t talk about the record or focus on it.

“He never brings it up,” said freshman guard Austin Rivers. “. . .All he cares about is winning. The number never comes up.”

Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

Duke's tough schedule will pay dividens come tournament time. They will be battle tested unlike their rival UNC. UNC has stretch of their schedule where they will play 9 straight home games against mid-major opponent's which will last longer than a month. They have only 3 non conference road games, one of which is at a neutral sight (Michigan St.). The only 2 non conference road games they play on another teams home court, UNC Asheville and Kentucky. UNC may stay number one for a while but they will not fair well once they face some adversity in the NCAA tournament.

Anonymous said...

Belmont is no joke. 30-5 last year, bring most starters back. Tough early slate for Duke.

Devils will trip up a couple times before the ACC starts--haters gonna hate, but this young team will be scary once it starts meshing in a few months.

Anonymous said...

You're right Anon...Belmont was definitely no joke.

Especially considering Duke just beat up on Preysbeterian by 40-something (meaning Duke actually IS good this year)--shows how tough an out Belmont is.