Duke proved to be superior in every facet of the game as the No. 23 Blue Devils cruised to a 95-60 win over ACC rival North Carolina State on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The energy and intensity of the Blue Devils was much improved after a somewhat sluggish start to the ACC season and freshman forward Jabari Parker got back into his early-season groove as he scored 23 points, grabbed seven rebounds and generally looked more like himself after a subpar start to the conference season.
Parker attacked the basket — getting to the free throw line 10 times and making seven of them — found good, in-rhythm shots and moved towards the basket without the ball for easy finishes.
While Parker got back in control of his immense offensive abilities, and Duke had six players with nine-or-more points overall, it was their effort on the defensive end that was especially impressive.
Duke’s defense limited North Carolina State by creating 21 turnovers — 15 of them in the first half that led to 23 points off turnovers — and poor possessions and shots for the Wolfpack often ended in Duke runouts and easy baskets. In the second half especially, it looked like N.C. State had essentially given up while Duke continued to fly all over the floor in front of an energized Coach K. Duke ended up with 33 points off of turnovers on the afternoon.
Duke and Coach K appeared a bit sluggish in ACC play as K dealt with the death of his brother and the Blue Devils got used to the rigors of the ACC with a somewhat inexperienced group. All of that appears to be behind them now and if Duke can defend the way they did and get good shots for Parker like they did against N.C. State, they’ll be fine as they approach the middle part of ACC play.
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 NBCSports.com 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…)
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)