Once again the Devils were their own worst enemy. In a game that was tight and winnable, the Devils seemed to just wither. Duke had no answer for Arizona on the perimeter or in the middle. Arizona got double-digit scoring from their entire front court while for Duke the usual suspects got theirs with Rodney Hood getting 21 and Jabari Parker 19. Quinn Cook had 13 points for Duke but no one else was able to step up. Duke was able to turn over the Wildcats (16) but was unable to capitalize on those turnovers at a high enough clip.
The first half had Duke inch out to a 3 point lead but the guards for Arizona took over and outplayed Duke in the second half. Both guards scored in double figures and T.J. McConnell had 8 assists no Duke player had over 3. The Wildcats seem to figure out Dukes offense with ease, even when they employed a 2-3 zone it was easily beaten with a lob to Aaron Gordon who may not be a huge threat to score a lot for Arizona but does things that help his team win. Gordon had 4 assists (again more than any Duke player) and had 2 blocks which seems like a misprint for what I saw watching the game.
Duke seemed to be completely lost in half-court sets which seemed odd as going into the game it was a plan to play in that fashion. Coach K has mentioned that Duke will depend mostly on Hood and Parker for bulk of the scoring and that the other guys will have to adjust to their games but perhaps it may be a better plan for Hood and Parker to adjust to the games of the other players? Hood and Parker are very adept at getting theirs but it seems to be to the detriment of players that Duke will need production from. Rasheed Sulaimon has had a few flashes of production but has looked lost on both sides of the floor. Sulaimon did give Duke 8 points on this game but he will need to find his way and place on this team with two-volume shooters. Sulaimon seemed to over penetrate instead of going up for floater shots when attacking the basket. He isn’t a player that is exceptionally gifted at scoring over taller players so it seems to me his best shots are going to have to be floaters or mid-range jumpers. An improved handle is also something I’d like to see from the sophomore. He seems to have problems maintaining his footwork when dribbling, probably not a solvable problem this year but improved handle and a stronger base would make him a much better offensive threat. Duke will also need something from the paint without Hood or Parker on the back of the jersey. Duke got nothing from Josh Hairston or Amile Jefferson in the scoring column, granted neither one is a threat in that regard generally but with the attention being centered around Hood and Parker someone has got to be able to put the ball in the basket for Duke in the paint. A lot of the slack and criticism has fallen on the shoulders of Quinn Cook, Cook has played well for the most part this season but when you go from a team with multiple scoring options to a team that is struggling offensively. Duke has not been able to stretch the floor against good teams and that is partially because they aren’t getting post scoring nor are their threats currently to make teams pay from deep. Andre Dawkins did not see the light of day enough in this game to have much impact. Duke went 4 for 14 from beyond the arc and it simply will not get the job done against quality opponents.
The good news is Duke played much better against AZ than it did against Vermont. Defensively for 3/4 of the game Duke was pretty good, sometimes a little lucky but often times good. Defending the post is going to be an issue all year long without a true center, and I love the intensity of Amile Jefferson as much as anyone but a rim protector he is not. What I don’t see is Jefferson fully utilizing his wingspan in the paint. I’m not sure where Duke goes from here but there are signs of life with this group. If they can put the focus on rebounding (boxing out), staying stout on the defensive end as a lot of Dukes mistakes are self-inflicted. Miscues on the defensive end and letting teams take them out of position has been an issue for most of the season, Duke will need to shore this up before ACC play.
Thoughts from Randy Dunson:
The hype was Parker versus Gordon. While they had their moments, good & bad, it was Aaron Gordon, Sean Miller, & the rest of the Wildcats team had much different ideas. They had an amazing balance on the offensive end, most particularly in the 2nd half. Add to that suffocating defense and that spelled eventual doom for the Blue Devils with a 72-66 win.
It was truly a multifaceted effort led by Gordon and yet another freshman forward, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who held the Jabari Parker to just 7 for 21 from the field. As a team, Duke managed to shoot just 43% from the field and 29%. Parker simply had an “off” night despite 19 points, but the majority of his issues were affected and/or caused by the defensive pressure. He’s human after all.
For Duke, Rodney Hood (21 points on 8-of-14 shooting) and Quinn Cook (13 points, 6-of-9 FG) which was a very good showing. However, they couldn’t overcome the “off” game from Parker, and their supporting cast struggled in the game. While protecting the rim in the 1st half, Arizona found the answer for lack of scoring and pounded it inside in the 2nd half, going 10 for 22.
In the end, it was nothing more than a 6-point victory for Arizona over a quality opponent. In my opinion, it would be erroneous to read too much into this game for either team so early in the year. Nevertheless, it was an impressive showing from the Wildcats, and it reminded us that Jabari Parker is, indeed, human. Both teams are still a work in progress & will be major factors come tournament time.
Duke Blue Devils
|Josh Hairston, F||20||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||3||3||1||0||0||0||2||0|
|Rodney Hood, F||38||8-14||1-3||4-5||2||6||8||1||1||0||2||2||21|
|Jabari Parker, F||38||7-21||0-5||5-7||1||2||3||1||1||2||5||2||19|
|Tyler Thornton, G||23||1-3||0-1||0-0||0||2||2||3||1||0||1||5||2|
|Quinn Cook, G||31||6-9||1-2||0-0||1||2||3||3||0||0||2||3||13|
|Amile Jefferson, F||19||0-1||0-0||0-3||3||1||4||1||1||0||1||3||0|
|Marshall Plumlee, C||1||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Andre Dawkins, G||4||1-1||1-1||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|Rasheed Sulaimon, G||24||2-8||1-2||3-3||0||0||0||1||1||0||0||3||8|
|Matt Jones, G||2||0-1||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Brandon Ashley, F||26||6-8||1-1||0-0||1||1||2||0||2||1||3||5||13|
|Aaron Gordon, F||31||4-6||1-1||1-1||0||7||7||4||0||2||1||4||10|
|Kaleb Tarczewski, C||28||2-4||0-0||6-6||3||6||9||1||0||1||4||2||10|
|T.J. McConnell, G||39||2-7||0-2||6-6||0||6||6||8||1||0||2||1||10|
|Nick Johnson, G||31||4-10||2-6||5-7||0||2||2||3||2||2||4||3||15|
|Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, F||27||3-6||0-0||1-4||1||5||6||2||0||2||1||3||7|
|Jordin Mayes, G||4||0-1||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||1||0||1||0||0|
|Gabe York, G||14||2-5||1-4||2-2||0||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||7|