Monday, February 2, 2009

Duke picks good time to increase pace

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski couldn’t have picked a better time to encourage point guard Nolan Smith to push the ball up the court.

On Wednesday, Duke will travel to Clemson to meet a team that lives and dies by coach Oliver Purnell’s pressing defense. The Tigers lead the ACC with 9.6 steals per game and have forced more turnovers (17.9 per game) than any other team in the conference.

But Clemson also ranks 10th in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (.415) because opponents are shooting layups when they aren’t turning over the ball. In a 94-70 win on Jan. 24, North Carolina showed what a team with a good transition game can do against the Tigers.

“You can’t turn it over, and you’ve got to be strong with the ball,” Krzyzewski said Monday on the ACC coaches’ teleconference. “That’s one of the keys to the ballgame. And then we have to hit shots when we do break their press, their presses. Be strong enough to take them and hit them.

“If you don’t turn it over, you have a chance to get and hit a good shot. But they have a good chance of turning you over.”

Pushing the ball more is a long-term decision by Krzyzewski that’s not geared in particular to the Clemson game. But it should help the Blue Devils on the road in an important conference game against a top-10 foe. – Ken Tysiac