Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Duke's defense gets exposed by Buckeyes

Duke’s Austin Rivers, a shoot-first guard, doesn’t play like his father, now-Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

But here’s a trait they share: Both have a blunt, analytical way of dissecting a loss.

Freshman Austin used the word “embarrassing’’ frequently in describing an 85-63 loss to Ohio State Tuesday night. To Rivers, the Blue Devils didn’t just lose their first game, they lost their identity.

“Duke is all about defense, but we played individual. We didn’t play as a team’’ Rivers said. “The offense was fine. But we were awful defensively.’’

The 7-0 start was good for Duke’s confidence, but it might have created a false sense that a young team had already arrived.. As Mason Plumlee put it, “It kind of opened our eyes to reality.’’

Plumlee had primary responsibility for guarding Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger, who finished with 21 points and eight rebounds. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Plumlee didn’t play badly, and that seems fair when you consider what a load Sullinger is.

He’s the most dangerous low-post scorer in college basketball, so it was inevitable the Blue Devils would have to give Plumlee help guarding him. They did, and the Buckeyes had a far too easy time exploiting those double-teams. Ohio State’s 8-of-14 accuracy from 3-point range was a direct result of how well the Buckeyes found the open man and how poorly the Blue Devils rotated.

Duke won’t play a team of Ohio State’s skill and talent every night. But to effectively play man-to-man defense the way Krzyzewski expects, this group has to do a much better job of doubling, then recovering, if it expects a Final Four season.

Unlike college football, one early-season loss in basketball doesn’t derail a season. It might demonstrate what Duke must do to get where it expects to be.

-- Rick Bonnell

Monday, November 28, 2011

Harrison Barnes in doubt for Wisconsin-UNC game

CHAPEL HILL -- Harrison Barnes is suffering from a sprained ankle and his status is in doubt for North Carolina's game here on Wednesday night against Wisconsin, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said on Monday during his weekly radio show.

Barnes, the sophomore forward, sustained the injury on Saturday night during UNC's 90-80 defeat against UNLV. He left the game with 6:13 to play in the first half but returned about three minutes later and finished with 15 points in 30 minutes.

"If we had a game today he would not have played," Williams said during his radio show.

He said he hopes Barnes will be able to play against No. 9 Wisconsin, which will visit the Smith Center as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Through six games, Barnes has led UNC with an average of 17.3 points per game.

If Barnes is unable to play on Wednesday night, Williams said sophomore guard Reggie Bullock and freshman guard P.J. Hairston would receive more playing time. Hairston has averaged 9.7 points per game and Bullock 7.8.

Barnes seemed to be affected by the injury on Saturday night, when he made 6 of his 16 field goal attempts and struggled to find an offensive rhythm during the second half. After the loss against UNLV, the Tar Heels dropped from No. 1 to No. 5 in the latest Associated Press top 25.

-- Andrew Carter

Monday, November 14, 2011

Krzyzewski: Penn State scandal 'the worst thing'

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said today that he believes the Penn State sex abuse scandal was “the worst thing,” and that those who question coach Joe Paterno’s failure to act should remember that how social issues are handled has changed dramatically in Paterno’s lifetime.

“One thing you have to understand is that Coach Paterno is 84 years old,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m not saying that for an excuse or whatever. The cultures that he’s been involved in both football wise and socially have been [through] immense changes. And how social issues are handled in those generations are quite different. Quite different. And I think that has something to do with the situation.”

Paterno was fired last week after allegations of sexual abuse of young boys were brought against one of Penn State’s longtime former assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky. According to reports, Paterno was told about an incident regarding Sandusky and reported it to his superiors at Penn State but didn’t contact police.

In June, before news of the scandal surfaced, Krzyzewski appeared with Paterno in a forum on coaching, ethics and other issues that was taped and later broadcast on ESPN. Krzyzewski was asked about Paterno today at a news conference today scheduled to discuss Duke’s game Tuesday with Michigan State as Krzyzewski needs one win to break Bob Knight’s Division I career record of 902.

Paterno is “a great man, and it’s a horrific situation,” Krzyzewski said. Social issues, Krzyzewski said, are handled differently now than in the past.

“Thank goodness,” Krzyzewski said. “Thank goodness. But as we judge, remember that there’s just a lot there.”

Krzyzewski said he doesn’t know how the sexual abuse case ultimately will affect Paterno’s legacy.

“You don’t have control, except through your actions, on how people report those actions,” Krzyzewski said. “I don’t know how it will all turn out, but that’s part of being at a high level. Especially when you’re involved in an educational institution, you’re going to be judged differently than you would be if you were a pro coach or whatever. It’s just different. And really it’s the way it should be.”

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Briscoe: Off-the-bench scoring punch?

Noting the 49ers:

-- Men's basketball coach Alan Major doesn't want to divulge his starting lineup for Friday's season opener against N.C. Central, but don't expect it to be different from last week's group that started against Belmont Abbey in a preseason exhibition.

That means that freshman Pierria Henry will again start at point guard ahead of junior Jamar Briscoe, last season's starter.

Major said there are so many potential combinations in the backcourt that it might mean Briscoe ends up playing more minutes that Henry (Henry played 18 minutes against the Crusaders, Briscoe 17).

"It's like football players like Darren Sproles or Reggie Bush," said Major. "They can do so many things that it's hard to keep them off the field. I think that's what (Briscoe) can create for himself. He's got these great instincts, and an ability I love that he can come off the bench with some real scoring punch."

Briscoe was the nation's second-leading freshman scorer three years ago at N.C. Central.

The 49ers, incidentally, are practicing in the mornings this season (from 7:45 a.m. to around 10) to accommodate players' class schedules.

-- 49ers forward Jennifer Hailey has missed recent practice time due to a concussion, but women's basketball coach Cara Consuegra is hopeful she'll be able to play in the 49ers' season opener Friday against Presbyterian. Hailey has been cleared to practice.

-- Charlotte's men's soccer team is in the enviable position of not needing to win this week's Atlantic 10 tournament in St. Louis to gain a berth in the NCAA tournament. The third-seed 49ers (13-3-2), who play defending champ Xavier on Thursday, have an RPI of 9, which should already guarantee them a spot, no matter what happens in St. Louis. The 49ers are also ranked 12th in this week's Soccer America poll.

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

Friday, November 4, 2011

VIDEO: College basketball's top tradition

The top fan tradition in college basketball is not at Duke, or Charlotte, or any other Carolinas school. And you have to see the video to believe it.