The Blue Devils made just 31.1% of their shots on the night and turned the ball over 15 times, and while Florida State also turned the basketball over 15 times they were able to produce points in other areas. The Seminoles outscored Duke 22-10 in the paint, and while Mason Plumlee provided 14 rebounds off the bench he and older brother Miles scored just three points combined. Last year's squad didn't have a major scoring threat inside either, but with Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek there was the general comfort in knowing what they'd give on a nightly basis. Miles played just six ineffective minutes, and to be honest the game looked to be more than Ryan Kelly (three points, four rebounds) is equipped to handle right now from a physical standpoint.
Given the interior strength of contenders such as Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse and Pittsburgh the Blue Devils will need more from their big men as the season wears on. What they have inside right now is good enough to win most nights in the ACC, but it may not be enough to get to Houston. As for Florida State this was a big victory in regards to them being able to dictate the game against one of the nation's best teams. That's critical for Leonard Hamilton's group given their offensive woes for much of the season (it should be pointed out that they shot 44.4% Wednesday night); they're going to have to rely on their defense on most nights in order to win. But if Kitchen can build on this performance offensively the dynamic changes a bit despite Florida State's lack of a true point guard (Kitchen and Michael Snaer each had three assists to one turnover). The Seminoles picked up the win they needed to counter that horrendous loss to Auburn, and they've got the ability to get a few more wins in the ACC.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Remember when that Georgetown/Memphis game meant something?
Now the win for the Hoyas in Memphis last month does mean something, but from a national standpoint it's a bit startling to see how the two have fared since. Georgetown fell behind Pittsburgh early and never truly challenged in the second half of what would eventually be a 72-57 Panther victory, one that you could argue wasn't even that close. Ashton Gibbs led Pitt with 22 points and as a team the preseason Big East favorites turned the ball over just three times and assisted on 15 of their 22 baskets. Georgetown on the other hand shot 38% from the field and accounted for a stunning five assists (Chris Wright had four) given the system they run. Julian Vaughn did score 13 points but the lack of assists underline the difference that Greg Monroe made for last year's team.
Vaughn can get some things done but his overall skill set doesn't concern teams like Monroe's did, putting more on the shoulders of Wright, Jason Clark and Austin Freeman. And if one (both Clark and Freeman shot below their averages from the field) struggles then the entire team has problems offensively. Now 1-4 in Big East play the Hoyas have many opportunities to pick it up, but those opportunities could become problems if they aren't careful. As for Memphis words may not do justice to their loss at SMU. Papa Dia led the Mustangs with 22 points and 10 rebounds in the 64-58 win, one that the Tigers squandered by turning the ball over 18 times and shooting an embarrassing 3-for-13 from the foul line. Joe Jackson led Memphis with 15 points but also turned the ball over three times and Wesley Witherspoon also had three turnovers, and you can't afford that level of play from primary ball-handlers if you're going to be a conference contender. Memphis has struggled with consistency (and efficiency) for much of this season, and it's something they need to solve soon if they're to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
2. Colorado moves to 2-0 in Big 12 play with a win at Kansas State.
Last night Penn State knocked off ranked opponents in consecutive games for the first time since 1954. The last time Colorado accomplished that feat? There was no "last time" as they'd never done in, which should underline the job that first-year head coach Tad Boyle has done in his first season in Boulder. Many saw the Buffs' swan song in the Big 12 as a tour to be filled with astronomical beatings but Colorado's got different ideas, and on Wednesday it was Levi Knutson who stepped up. Knutson knocked down six three pointers (20 points total) in the 74-66 win at Kansas State, making up for a 4-for-15 night (and six turnovers) from Burks and 20 turnovers from the team. Jacob Pullen led the Wildcats with 22 but it's tough to take advantage of 20 turnovers when you shoot 40.4% from the field and 7-for-21 from beyond the arc. Burks and Cory Higgins consistently have more of an impact offensively than they did tonight, and with their upcoming schedule (Oklahoma State, at Nebraska and at Oklahoma) Colorado has a chance to take a solid conference record into their game against Kansas on the 25th.
3. San Diego State protects the lane and beats UNLV as a result.
Steve Fisher's team is very good at a number of things, but one that may not get the amount of attention that it should is the fact that they don't foul very often. The Aztecs lead the Mountain West and rank 28th in fewest fouls per game with an average of 16.8, and they committed only 12 in a 55-49 win over UNLV to move their win streak to 18 (which is now the longest streak in the nation). SDSU did a good job of keeping the Rebels, who are much better offensively when able to attack the basket instead of firing away from beyond the arc, out of the lane and off the foul line (4-7 FT). UNLV shot a horrid 1-for-18 from deep, and while attempting 29.5% of their shots from deep isn't much of a difference from what they average (29.2% of their shot attempts are three pointers) they're last in the Mountain West in three-point field goal point percentage (21.4% of their points come on threes). While it can be pointed out that they needed to penetrate more that's easier said than done, especially against a team with the number of versatile athletes that the Aztecs have. Kawhi Leonard led the way with 15 points and 17 rebounds and Malcolm Thomas added 14 and 16 rebounds on a night that saw the home team struggle from the field as well. But when you can defend and control the boards (40-29 edge) you tend to win more often than lose.
Top Three Games
1. Florida State 66, (1) Duke 61
2. La Salle 89, Pennsylvania 83 The Explorers picked up their first Big 5 win of the season, surviving a late Penn rally to push the game into overtime at Tom Gola Arena. Ruben Guillandeaux scored 22 of his 24 points in the second half and overtime while Aaric Murray bounced back from his one-game "rest" (coach's decision) to provide 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Zack Rosen led five Penn starters in double figures with 19 points to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists.
3. Southern Miss 81, Rice 78 (OT) Gary Flowers played 43 minutes and put together an impressive stat line, accounting for 24 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four blocks in the Golden Eagles' win in Houston. Connor Frizzelle led the Owls with 21 off the bench while Tamir Jackson added 19 in a losing effort.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Marcus Morris (Kansas) 33 points and 13 rebounds (both career highs) in the Jayhawks' 84-79 win at Iowa State.
2. G Derwin Kitchen (Florida State) 22 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in the Seminoles' win over top-ranked Duke.
3. G Jeremy Hazell (Seton Hall) Hazell announced his return to the lineup with 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting in the Pirates' 78-67 win at DePaul.