Devils cooking up special recipe for Creighton's Big Mac?
Saturday featured plenty of talk about Creighton all-American forward Doug McDermott and how Duke may defend him.
When the teams meet tonight (9:40 p.m., TBS) in an NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional round of 32 game at Wells Fargo Center, how much talking the No. 6 Blue Devils do on the court will have a say in their chances to beat No. 22 Creighton.
A versatile 6-8 junior who averages 23.2 points per game, McDermott is known for his relentless movement around the court to find open shots.
Duke’s players said Saturday that they have to keep moving with him through the variety of screens the other Bluejays set, to keep McDermott under control. But that, they said, won’t be possible without communication.
“One thing with Doug is he’s just a great scorer,” Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon said. “In watching him on film, he never quits moving. It’s going to be a team effort. With a guy like him, he’s going to be hard to contain. As a team if we communicate, we can work together to slow him down.”
Duke senior forward Ryan Kelly draws the main assignment in guarding McDermott one-on-one. At 6-11 with the ability to fire in 3-pointers himself, Kelly is an athletic big man just like McDermott.
The two know each other well, having been roommates last summer at a Chicago hotel while attending the Amaré Stoudemire Big Man Camp.
“Got a chance to pick his brain a little bit because we kind of play similar,” McDermott said. “He’s a little bigger than I am, taller. When we got to the gym I saw some of the moves he would do and he kind of taught me some of them, so he’s a good player, and it’ll be cool playing against them.”
Kelly played down the roommate angle on Saturday, saying the impact on the game will be minimal.
“It’s a good storyline,” Kelly said. “But none of it matters once we step on the court.”
On the court, though, Kelly has plenty of respect for McDermott.
“Clearly he’s one of the best scorers in the country if not the best,” Kelly said. “Does it inside and out, can shoot the ball, good post moves, and he’s constantly in motion. They set a lot of screens for him to get his shots and get in the positions he likes. So we’re just going to have to battle him. It’s going to be five players on the court that are going to have to defend him, and we’ll be ready.”
With five players helping to chase McDermott, that’s where the on-court communication between the Blue Devils (28-5) becomes important. Creighton (28-7) shoots 50.6 percent from the field as a team. In addition to McDermott’s 55.8 percent, starters Gregory Echenique (66 percent) and Grant Gibbs (52.9 percent) have made more than half their shots this season.
“They’re the most efficient offensive team in the country, and after studying them last night and again this morning, they’re very difficult to defend,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Krzyzewski called McDermott a great “counter-puncher” because of his ability to keep his edge on offense even after the initial move doesn’t net an open look.
Duke center Mason Plumlee noticed that as well.
“You might think it’s over, but it’s not over,” Plumlee said. “You haven’t done your job. He’s going to cut. They are going to set screens for him.”
Duke, seeded No. 2 in the Midwest Region, limited teams to 47.6 percent shooting this season. The two players the Blue Devils said were similar in style to McDermott were Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas and Miami’s Kenny Kadji.
Thomas, who is 6-7, scored 16 points on 6 of 14 shooting when Duke beat the Buckeyes 73-68 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Nov. 28.
The 6-11 Kadji had a big game in Coral Gables, Fla., on Jan. 23 when the Hurricanes won 90-63. He scored 22 points on 9 of 11 shooting. But Kelly missed that game with a foot injury.
On March 2, the day Kelly returned after a seven-week absence, Kadji had 17 points in 7 of 13 shooting in a 79-76 Duke win at Cameron.
The Blue Devils will combine to guard McDermott and Creighton and they know they only way they can win is if they work as one.
Kelly, though, is glad to draw the tough defensive assignment, looking at it as validation of his improvement on that end of the court.
“That’s something I really prided myself on this season,” Kelly said. “That’s something nobody would have said about me in the past. It’s something I worked on this off-season to put myself and my body in position to make it tough on the players that I’m guarding. I’ve done a good job at times this year and (Sunday) night is another time to do it again.”
No. 2 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 7 Creighton Bluejays
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
Time: 9:40 p.m.
Records: Duke 28-5, Creighton 28-7.
“We know what we do and we do it well when we execute.” — Duke senior center Mason Plumlee.
“From what we saw last night, they are a good defensive team early in the possession and then they back off. With our inside-out game we are going to see how we can exploit it,” Creighton forward Ethan Wragge.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Creighton — Doug McDermott, F, Jr. — Second in the nation in scoring average (23.1), the 6-8 forward can score inside and out. Ryan Kelly gets the main assignment but everyone on Duke will monitor him.
Duke — Rasheed Sulaimon, G, Fr. – Sporting an 11.4 scoring average, he has only reached double figures once in the last six games. With Creighton directing so much attention at Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly, Sulaimon should get open shots.
Creighton — 50.6 — The Bluejays’ team shooting percentage, good for second among Division I teams.
Duke — 5 — Times Duke has allowed an opponent to shoot 50 or better this season. Blue Devils are 1-4 in those games.
Creighton Blue Jays Roster
Coach: Greg McDermott
|00 Gregory Echenique||C||6-9||260||Sr||Guatire,||Venezuela|
|1 Austin Chatman||G||6-0||185||So||The Colony||Texas|
|2 Taylor Stormberg||G||6-0||190||Jr||Omaha,||Neb.|
|3 Doug McDermott||F||6-8||225||Jr||Ames,||Iowa|
|10 Grant Gibbs||G||6-5||210||Sr||Marion,||Iowa|
|11 Andre Yates||G||6-0||185||Fr||Dayton,||Ohio|
|12 Jahenns Manigat||G||6-1||175||Jr||Ottawa|
|22 Avery Dingman||G||6-6||205||So||Branson,||Mo.|
|23 Geoffrey Groselle||C||7-0||250||Fr||Plano,||Texas|
|24 Nevin Johnson||G/F||6-5||200||Fr||Houston|
|30 Joe Kelling||G||6-0||185||Sr||Kansas City||Kan.|
|31 Will Artino||C||6-11||230||So||Waukee,||Iowa|
|34 Ethan Wragge||F||6-7||225||Jr||Eden Prairie||Minn.||.|
|40 Alex Olsen||F||6-6||190||Fr||Council Bluffs||Iowa|
|50 Mogboluwaga Oginni||F||6-8||220||Fr||St. Louis|
Duke Blue Devils Roster
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
|2 Quinn Cook||G||6-1||175||So||Washington|
|3 Tyler Thornton||G||6-1||190||Jr||Washington|
|5 Mason Plumlee||F||6-10||235||Sr||Warsaw,||Ind.|
|12 Alex Murphy||F||6-8||220||Fr||Wakefield,||R.I.|
|14 Rasheed Sulaimon||G||6-4||185||Fr||Houston|
|15 Josh Hairston||F||6-7||240||Jr||Fredericksburg,||Va.|
|21 Amile Jefferson||F||6-8||195||Fr||Philadelphia|
|30 Seth Curry||G||6-2||185||Sr||Charlotte,||N.C.|
|34 Ryan Kelly||F||6-11||230||Sr||Raleigh,||N.C.|
|40 Marshall Plumlee||F||6-11||235||Fr||Warsaw,||Ind.|
|52 Todd Zafirovski||F||6-9||245||Sr||Lake Forest||Ill.||.|