No. 6 Duke escapes but has some serious defensive issues to address

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After having trouble defensively in their 83-74 win over East Carolina on Tuesday night, No. 6 Duke had their hands full with the Vermont Catamounts on Sunday evening. Thanks to a Rodney Hood free throw with five seconds remaining and Vermont not attempting a shot in time on the ensuing possession the Blue Devils escaped with a 91-90 victory. But with the amount of talent on Mike Krzyzewski’s team, with freshman Jabari Parker (26 points, nine rebounds) leading the way, beating Vermont in late-November isn’t the standard for this group.

And that’s what makes their performance on the defensive end so concerning as they prepare for a trip to New York for the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals.

Vermont shot 64.8% from the field for the game, with Pepperdine transfer Hector Harold (24 points) and starting forward Clancy Rugg (20) leading four Catamounts in double figures. Through the use of proper spacing Vermont was able to find quality looks throughout the night, and during much of the second half Duke looked ill-equipped to get the stops needed to win the game.

Vermont finished the game with an offensive efficiency of 142.4 and an effective field goal percentage of 68.9%, but Duke won in the end because of Hood’s ability to attack the basket on the game’s deciding play and their overall ability to go “shot for shot” with the upstarts from America East. But in order for the Blue Devils to be a true national title contender they have to get better at keeping teams out of the paint.

Some may say that the Blue Devils need a “rim protector” of sorts to emerge, but where is that player coming from? 7-footer Marshall Plumlee, who didn’t see any action on Sunday night, is averaging just five minutes per game and neither Josh Hairston nor Amile Jefferson fits the “rim protector” role. That’s why Duke has to improve defensively in regards to both individual and team defense. There’s no “last line of defense” at present time, and it’s difficult to see such an option developing based upon the available options.

The Blue Devils are good enough offensively to beat most teams regardless of their issues on the defensive end. But in order to be one of the nation’s elite and challenge for a national title, the current effort being given defensively won’t cut it. Duke may not have lost on Sunday, but it became even more evident that the Blue Devils have a lot of work to do when it comes to stopping the opposition.

VIDEO: UMass Lowell game delayed by shattered backboard

Pat Duquette
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UMass Lowell’s game with Wheelock College was delayed for a little over an hour on Tuesday afternoon after a dunk attempt from Dontavius Smith broke the backboard.

The game resumed and is currently in the second half. Here’s the video of Smith shattering the glass after he took flight.

No. 13 Indiana bounces back with 83-73 win over St. John’s

Troy Williams
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LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) Yogi Ferrell had 22 points and seven assists to lead No. 13 Indiana to an 83-73 victory over St. John’s on Tuesday in the consolation round of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

Freshman center Thomas Bryant had a career-high 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting for the Hoosiers (4-1), who lost to Wake Forest 82-78 in the closing seconds of their opening-round game.

Indiana will play the winner of the Chaminade-UNLV game for fifth place on Wednesday.

Federico Mussini and Ron Mvouika had 17 points each for the Red Storm (3-2), who played much better than they did in their 92-55 pasting from No. 19 Vanderbilt in the first round.

Ferrell had an answer every time St. John’s tried to close in in the second half. Four times the Red Storm got within seven points and three of those times Ferrell replied. He hit a short jumper, two free throws and a step-back jumper to keep St. John’s at bay.

The Red Storm got as close as 76-70 with 1:53 to play on two free throws by Yankuba Sima. James Blackmon Jr., who finished with 12 points, hit a 3 and after a St. John’s turnover he scored on a drive to put the game away.

Troy Williams had seven points and nine rebounds for Indiana.

The Hoosiers led by as many as 17 points in the first half and took a 42-31 lead at halftime.


St. John’s: This game started a little bit better than the opening round. In that game Vanderbilt opened by scoring the first nine points of the game. Against Indiana St. John’s trailed 9-2 at the start. … St. John’s had eight turnovers against Vanderbilt. The Red Storm had that many at halftime against the Hoosiers, They finished with 11.

Indiana: Bryant had 15 points at halftime, two off his career high for a game. … Ferrell was 9 of 10 from the free throw line. The rest of the Hoosiers were 6 of 14.

TALE OF THE TAPE: St. John’s trainer Ron Linfonte and Tim Garl, his counterpart at Indiana, are both in their 35th season at their respective schools. They are the two longest-tenured trainers in men’s Division I basketball.


St. John’s: plays loser of Chaminade-UNLV for seventh place on Wednesday.

Indiana: plays winner of Chaminade-UNLV for fifth place on Wednesday.