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.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)