Monday, November 21, 2011

Duke 77, Tennessee 67

[recap] [box score]

New Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin apparently has some of policy that if his guys play hard on defense and on the boards, they'll can more or less do what they want offensively. He might want to re-consider that policy; some of his guys -- most notably Cameron Tatum and Jordan McRae -- really take advantage of that long leash when it comes to shot selection.

Other than that, though, Martin is off to a good start in place of disgraced former coach Bruce Pearl. He's got a bunch of interchangeable parts -- ten Vols scored in the first half against Duke -- who play hard and don't back down. The Vols stuck with Duke for most of the game despite the fact that their best player, Trae Golden, played just a few minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, and the fact that they didn't make a three-pointer in a game for the first time since 1997. And the game would have been even closer had they converted some easy looks underneath. Jeronne Maymon had a particularly tough night in that regard; he led the team with 14 points and 12 rebounds, but made just five of 14 shots.

Duke notes: Austin Rivers had the best game of his young career, but he didn't really start putting it together until he drilled a couple of tough threes late in the first half. He showed in the second half that he can hit the floater from any angle, banking one off the glass from the left side and drilling one straight on from the middle of the paint. My early impression of him is that he's well ahead of his classmates in terms of breaking his man down off the dribble and getting to the line, but I wouldn't call him even a good finisher and his decision-making isn't great. The talent is there, but he's got a long way to go ... Seth Curry looks reasonably comfortable handling the ball, but he's not a true point guard. Until Rivers becomes a consistent threat, the bulk of the responsibility on the offensive end is going to fall on Andre Dawkins, who is off to a good start but doesn't seem like the Kyle Singler/Nolan Smith type of player you can count on ... Ryan Kelly started in place of Miles Plumlee for the first time this season. Kelly's three-point shooting makes the Duke offense run more smoothly, but the guy can't bang with the big guys in the post. It will be interesting to see if Coach K chooses one guy and sticks with him, or alternates depending on the matchup ... All of Duke's bigs were terrible in transition defense. It's not entirely their fault; the Devils take a ton of three-pointers, which leads to lot of long rebounds and therefore a lot of transition opportunities. But Kelly and the Plumlees are going to need to do a better job getting back into the paint than they did against Tennessee.

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