Duke toughens up defense, tops Alabama

Nov. 28, 2013 @ 01:10 AM

No. 6 Duke hadn’t looked like Duke over the last two weeks, particularly on defense.

The Blue Devils themselves voiced that opinion.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski turned to a new lineup featuring all three captains on Wednesday night and the results looked far more like the Blue Devils are accustomed to delivering.

Duke clamped down on Alabama, holding the Crimson Tide to their worst shooting night of the season, in a 74-64 Blue Devils win the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

The Blue Devils (6-1) advance to the tournament championship, where they’ll meet No. 5 Arizona on Friday (6 p.m., ESPN).

Duke entered the Alabama game having won four games in a row, but in shaky fashion.

“Since Kansas (on Nov. 12) we hadn’t been playing like a Duke team defensively,” said Duke redshirt sophomore Rodney Hood, one team captain along with seniors Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton. “We wanted to start off and get off to a really good defensive start this game. We did.”

A 91-90 win over Vermont at Cameron Indoor Stadium last Sunday spurred Krzyzewski to shake things up.

Hairston and Thornton replaced Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson in the starting lineup. They joined Hood, freshman Jabari Parker and point guard Quinn Cook.

Saddled with fouls, Hood played just nine minutes in the first half and scored only eight points before fouling out. Parker scored 27 points, his seventh consecutive game with 20 points or more, while Cook added 17 and freshman Matt Jones 13 for the Blue Devils.

The group’s defense, though, was more to Krzyzewski’s liking.

Alabama (3-2) committed 16 turnovers with Duke recording 10 steals. Four other Crimson Tide turnovers were the result of Duke players drawing four charging fouls.

“Our halfcourt defense was very good,” Krzyzewski said. “Our half-court defense gave up 42 points tonight. That’s the best that we’ve played half-court defense.”

Duke’s players, be it the five starters or the four reserves that played, were noticeably more active on defense in terms of communicating with their teammates.

“We talked the whole night,” Hood said. “We closed them short and we kept them out the lane.”

Alabama entered the game shooting 52.4 percent for the season. The Tide hit only 40.4 percent against the Blue Devils.

Alabama guard Trevor Relaford made only 2 of 7 field goals to score 11 points. He came in averaging 18 points per game while making 59.5 percent of his shots.

“Quinn did an amazing job of staying in front of him and keeping him off the paint,” Thornton said. “In the halfcourt, we did a really good job of communicating and playing together and limiting them to one shot.”

With Hood not producing like he normally does, Duke had an off night on the offensive end. The Blue Devils’ output was their lowest of the season.

Alabama grabbed an early 12-5 lead and it looked bad for Duke when Hood picked up his second foul with 11:30 to play in the first half.

But the Blue Devils, after making just 1 of 11 shots to start the game, embarked on a 28-8 run and took a 33-22 lead at intermission.

Jones contributed 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to start Duke’s surge.

“I’ll tell you what, what Matt Jones did was huge in this game,” Krzyzewski said.

In the second half, Duke pushed its lead to as many as 18 points at 48-28 when Parker sank two free throws with 15:23 to play.

The Crimson Tide, though, showed their strongest offensive push of the night over the next 10 minutes. A 12-0 Alabama run cut Duke’s lead to 46-40. Parker scored six points over the next four minutes and Duke took a 56-44 lead.

Alabama responded with seven points in a row, with Algie Key scoring six of them on baskets inside.

With the lead down to 56-51 with 5:17 left, Duke stood strong.

The Blue Devils hit 8 of 10 free throws in the game’s final four minutes, closing out a solid free throw shooting night (24 of 29).

Asked about Alabama’s comeback before Duke held on, Krzyzewski angrily defended his team.

“When does that happen, were a team doesn’t fold, it’s spectacular,” Krzyzewski said. “A lot of teams in that situation would lose a game. I guess we had enough killer instinct to survive and win by 10 points. I’m very, very proud of my team.”

 

DUKE 74, ALABAMA 64

 

FG

FT

Reb

ALABAMA

Min

M-A

M-A

O-T

A

PF

PTS

Cooper

29

3-8

0-0

0-6

3

4

7

Obasohan

33

1-7

6-10

0-1

2

4

8

Taylor

11

1-1

0-0

1-4

0

2

2

Releford

31

2-7

7-7

1-2

2

4

11

Randolph

34

3-9

0-1

2-6

3

3

7

Key

21

5-7

1-1

0-3

1

3

11

Engstrom

5

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

1

0

Hale

10

0-4

0-0

1-2

1

4

0

Jacobs

26

8-14

2-4

4-7

0

2

18

Totals

200

23-57

16-23

10-34

12

27

64

Percentages: FG .404, FT .696.

3-Point Goals: 2-12, .167 (Randolph 1-3, Cooper 1-3, Hale 0-1, Obasohan 0-2, Releford 0-3).

Team Rebounds: 3.

Blocked Shots: 6 (Jacobs 3, Obasohan 2, Key).

Turnovers: 16 (Releford 4, Key 3, Cooper 3, Obasohan 2, Randolph 2, Taylor, Hale).

Steals: 8 (Obasohan 3, Releford 2, Hale, Key, Randolph).

Technical Fouls: None.

 

FG

FT

Reb

DUKE

Min

M-A

M-A

O-T

A

PF

PTS

Parker

35

9-12

9-10

0-8

2

3

27

Hood

21

3-8

1-2

0-1

0

5

8

Hairston

20

0-2

2-2

1-2

2

5

2

Cook

40

6-14

2-2

0-4

2

1

17

Thornton

32

1-3

4-4

1-4

4

2

6

Jones

16

3-5

5-7

1-3

0

1

13

Sulaimon

18

0-2

1-2

0-1

5

0

1

Jefferson

10

0-2

0-0

0-4

0

2

0

Dawkins

8

0-3

0-0

0-0

0

1

0

Totals

200

22-51

24-29

8-35

15

20

74

Percentages: FG .431, FT .828.

3-Point Goals: 6-15, .400 (Cook 3-4, Jones 2-3, Hood 1-3, Thornton 0-1, Sulaimon 0-2, Dawkins 0-2).

Team Rebounds: 8.

Blocked Shots: 1 (Parker).

Turnovers: 19 (Parker 5, Cook 4, Hood 3, Thornton 2, Sulaimon 2, Jones, Jefferson).

Steals: 10 (Thornton 5, Hood 3, Parker, Jones).

Technical Fouls: None.

Alabama

22

42—64

Duke

33

41—74

A_8,741.

Officials_Pat Driscoll, Jeffrey Anderson, Doug Shows.