by Ray Floriani
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- The Izod Center brought a college basketball doubleheader back into the facility on Saturday. A nice mid-major match-up between Penn and Army was followed by the feature game, a rematch of last year's NCAA title game, Duke-Butler.
The Four Factors:
The score was tied 28 all, at the half, and from Penn's perspective they were fortunate not to be behind. The Quakers' eFG% was 40% as they were 1 of 10 from three. Army, on the other hand, was 5 of 13 beyond the arc and had a gaudy 54% eFG%. What happened after intermission? Simply put, Penn started hitting shots while tightening up on the defensive end. Army relies a great deal on the three. They entered the game with 42% of their offense coming from that area. Over the final 20 minutes the Cadets still shot respectably from three going 4 of 12.
Unfortunately for Zack Spiker's club, those four treys were half the field goal production as the Cadets actually shot worse (4 of 15 for 27%) from two point range. The final points in the paint, a 28-16 Penn advantage, showed the Quakers were comfortable taking the ball to the basket. Guard Zack Rosen with a sterling 20 point 3 assist afternoon, was especially comfortable taking the ball into the lane. The one thing bothering Penn coach Jerome Allen is turnovers. A recurring problem that inflated to an alarming 29% rate in this contest.
The Four Factors:
The efficiency showed Duke with a decided edge but the Four Factors bear out this was a reasonably close game. A mid second half spurt by Duke keyed the victory.
The entire Blue Devil body of work the final twenty minutes was crucial. In the post game interview Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said that Brian Zoubek, one of last year's Duke kep performers, visited the team after the game and said how the first 30 minutes seemed like April's championship game pace wise. "It was," coach K said. "When we sped it up and changed the pace it became our advantage."
Duke altered the pace with added defensive pressure, that forced turnovers and got out the Blue Devils out in the open floor. The change in pace to a Duke liking was illustrated as at the half, Butler actually had a 97-87 edge in offensive efficiency. The second half Duke posted an almost off the charts 132 OE. A 32-20 advantage in points in the paint for the game, contributed.
During the decisive run Kyrie Irving (21 points) buried two big threes and Andrew Dawkins (10 points 8 boards) who stole a pass and finished it off with a traditional three point play.
A category Duke did enjoy a noticeable edge was free throw rate. Chalk it up to guard penetration as Irving (6) and Nolan Smith (14) combined for 20 of Duke's 29 free throw attempts. Collectively the two guards shot 19 of 20 from the line with the senior Smith accounting for the one miss.
Butler got a nice lift off the bench from Shawn Vanzant. The senior guard led the Bulldogs with14 points, added 5 boards and simply energized the team during his 28 minutes in relief.
Andrew Smith, Butler's 6-11 sophomore, is just going to get better as he continues to gain experience. For the afternoon Smith had a creditable showing, 10 points with 5 rebounds. He did have trouble finishing a few in traffic. Again that will be remedied as he progresses.
Smith had four offensive boards as Butler had the edge in that category. Not a big surprise as rebounding was a question needing addressing coming into the season for Duke. One of the few questions with this club.
Stevens was also pleased with "contributions from several players." He did note the defense must improve and don't mention moral victory. "This is a loss," he said, "we have to learn from it and move on." Coach K noted that "Butler is a team that will get better as the year goes on and be a tough out in March. They (Butler) did lose a lottery pick (Gordon Hayward)."
The efficiency leaders respectively were senior Nolan Smith and sophomore guard Andre Dawkins pacing Duke with 18. Shelvin Mack, with 11 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists had 16 for Butler. In fact Duke had a very ordinary game, for him , out of Kyle Singler. He had an efficiency of 10 largely on a 13 point afternoon , offset by three turnovers, no assists and 1 of 6 shooting from three. The Duke guards more than compensated:
Had to love Irving's effort. Coming home and playing in front of friends and family he did not force things and let the game come to him. Hard to remember he is just a freshman. And will get even better.
Penn is 4-3 and Army is now 4-4. Rosen led all with 20 points and 6-3 senior forward Jeremy Hence paced the Cadets with 15 points (3 of 4 from three).
Duke improves to 8-0 while Butler is now 4-3. Nolan Smith led all scorers with 24 points while Shawn Vanzant, as noted, was Butler's pacesetter with 14 points.
Good to see officiating friend Brain Dorsey working the game. We have worked together many times in basketball and even officiated a NJ state high school soccer tournament game together. Brian has enjoyed great success moving up the college ranks but remains the same humble person and a great friend.
Met David Woods of the Indianapolis Star who wrote the recently released book Underdawgs, which chronicled the March to last year's championship game. I had a copy which he, and the Butler cheer squad, graciously autographed. Woods said the story of Butler's run is great but even remarkable given the past. "About 20 years ago the program was really bad," Woods said. " It was not a good situation at all. To come from where they were to where they are today is an incredible story in itself."