Mason Plumlee Duke

Fundamentals are difference in No. 2 Duke’s win over rival North Carolina


This won’t go down as one of the gems of the Duke-North Carolina rivalry. It featured 30 total turnovers, 41 percent shooting from the floor, and nearly the entire Duke starting lineup in foul trouble.

Despite all of that, the No. 2 Blue Devils erased a 10-point first-half deficit to outlast North Carolina, 73-68, Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor in Durham, N.C.

Duke has continued to adapt as Ryan Kelly sits out with injury, but it wasn’t something flashy that won this game. Ultimately, 17-of-20 shooting from the free throw line, a renewed defensive energy in the second half, and the willingness to share the basketball helped Duke to a victory Wednesday.

Without Kelly, it is crucial that Mason Plumlee works to be assertive and effective inside, but his teammates need to help him. He finally worked to get closer to the basket as the game progressed and was able to impose his will on North Carolina forward James Michael McAdoo. It was exactly what Duke needed.

The Blue Devils had just one assist in the first half, but began to share the ball in the second. Kelly is not there to spread the floor from the power forward position, so it will fall to the guards to do so. Tyler Thornton was 3-of-4 from three-point range, and Seth Curry was quiet until late, but his outside shooting down the stretch was key.

The Blue Devils might not have depth, but they have a solid core of experience. As Wednesday showed, that can be the difference in a close conference game, which means the same for the NCAA tournament.

The means Plumlee and Curry, along with strong point guard play from sophomore Quinn Cook, need to be the engines of a fundamentally sound Duke attack. There won’t be many other opportunities for a 17-turnover game to still end up as a victory. The Blue Devils got one tonight, but more second halves like Wednesday’s will keep Duke as one of the nation’s elite.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady ‘awake, alert’ after getting stretchered off court

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Wichita State big man Anton Grady was stretchered off of the floor in the second half of a loss to Alabama after a nasty collision with Dazon Ingram.

The video can be seen above. There was nothing malicious about the way that Grady was injured. When he turned to run up the floor after missing a shot in the lane, he went face first into Ingram’s shoulder. He neck bent in an awkward directions and, after stumbling a few steps, he laid motionless on the floor.

It took 10 minutes for the training staff to strap Grady to a backboard and wheel him out of the arena.

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A Wichita State spokesman told that Grady was taken to a local trauma center for evaluation and that he is “awake, alert and is answering questions appropriately”.

We will have more updates as they come available.

From a basketball perspective, the No. 20 Shockers lost their second game in a row and are now 2-3 on the season.

While for some the Shockers’ résumé is up for questioning following losses to USC and Alabama, two teams projected to finish in the bottom half of their respective leagues, the team’s health is the biggest concern.

Fred VanVleet has been dealing with a hamstring issue since the season began, and an ankle injury limited him in a loss at Tulsa earlier this month. He won’t play again until at least Dec. 5th. and who knows when he’ll be back to full strength. The same can be said for back up point guard and freshman Landry Shamet, who underwent surgery to address a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. Their injuries have led to even more being asked of senior guard Ron Baker, and the loss of Grady for any significant amount of time certainly isn’t going to help matters..

These early-season losses won’t help Wichita State when it comes to the NCAA tournament, but it’s important to make note of the circumstances surrounding those defeats. To be shorthanded, with one of the absent players ranking among the nation’s best point guards, has an impact that has to be accounted for when evaluating Wichita State. The Shockers will add Conner Frankamp in mid-December, which will help them on the perimeter.

But with their rotation currently being in flux, it’s tough to make any definitive statements on what Wichita State will have to do in order to make another trip to the NCAA tournament. At this point Gregg Marshall and his staff will look for other contributors, one of whom being Markis McDuffie (14 points, seven rebounds vs. Alabama), to emerge and show themselves capable of picking up the slack.