Creighton v Duke

Duke takes away Doug McDermott, the 3-ball to knock off Creighton

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As they proved in a 66-50 win on Sunday night, No. 2 seed Duke turned out to just be a horrific matchup for No. 7 seed Creighton to draw in the round of 32.

Because the Blue Devils aren’t a great defensive team. They were 29th nationally, according to Kenpom, in adjusted defensive efficiency. They play guys like Quinn Cook and Seth Curry, who aren’t exactly known for their ability as ball-hawks.

What they do well, however, is defend the three-point line and defend the scouting report. Duke only allows opponents to shoot 30.5% from beyond the arc, and they only allow 26.8% of their opponent’s field goal attempts to come from deep, which is the 22nd-lowest percentage in the country. It’s their game-plan. They want to chase you off the three-point line.

And Creighton?

Well, the three-ball just so happens to be as important to them as it is to any team in the country. They’re the nation’s best three-point shooting team, getting more than a third of their points from beyond the arc. It should be pretty obvious what Duke was focusing on stopping on the defensive end of the floor.

To their credit, Duke executed that game-plan to perfection. The Bluejays shot just 2-19 from three on Sunday, which is an impressive number in and of itself. Now think about it like this: Creighton still had a chance until two Tyler Thornton free throws with 2:44 left on the clock put Duke back up 12. You could see it in Creighton’s body language that they were all-but ready to throw in the towel. In that final 2:44, the Bluejays managed to fire off seven shots, all from beyond the arc. They made one.

That means that, with the game in doubt, Creighton, who puts so much stock into their ability to shoot the three, took just 12 of their 46 field goals — 26.1%, about a third less than their season average — from beyond the arc, making one.

When you combine that with the fact that Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee and Amile Jefferson defended Creighton’s all-american Doug McDermott about to perfection — he finished with 21 points, but he was 12-12 from the line and 4-16 from the field, as he didn’t hit a field goal for the last 25 minutes of the game — and it’s no wonder that Duke was able to beat Creighton and advance to the Sweet 16.

Their reward? They’ll get to play No. 3 seed Michigan State and Tom Izzo in Indianapolis.

Duke is going to need to do a lot more than simply stop the three ball to beat the Spartans.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 17 Arizona erases double-digit deficit to beat UCLA

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.

UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.

Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.

All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.

The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.

No. 23 USC falls at Arizona State

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley applauds the efforts of his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
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No. 23 USC missed a golden opportunity to make up a game in the Pac-12 standings on Friday night.

No. 11 Oregon lost to Colorado on Thursday night, dropping back into a tie for first place in the league with the Trojans, a game ahead of No. 17 Arizona. But USC fell at Arizona State, 74-67, keeping them a game off of the pace that the Ducks have set.

The loss is even more painful when you consider that, on Sunday, the Trojans will be making the trip to Tucson to take on Arizona. The Wildcats are not what we have become accustomed to seeing under Sean Miller, but they are still a top 25 team and the McKale Center is still one of the toughest places in the country to get a win.

Thanks to Friday’s loss, instead of entering McKale with an outside chance of taking over sole possession of first place in the league, USC will have top hope they don’t fall two games off the pace.

As far as the game itself was concerned, USC committed 17 turnovers, shot 2-for-11 from three and gave up 16 offensive rebounds to Arizona State. That’s how you lose a game where you shoot better than 51 percent from the floor. USC was just never able to consistently get out into transition, and that caused them to struggle¬†executing in the half court.

Nikola Jovanovic led the way with 25 points and 15 boards for USC.

Tra Holder’s 20 points made the difference for Arizona State, who kept themselves within striking distance of an at-large bid with the win.