Talking Points: Devils & Heels avoid scares
Posted March 22, 2013
Updated March 23, 2013
1. Duke and North Caro...oh my! Did y'all see what Florida Gulf Coast did to Georgetown!? Those alley-oops were straight out of Lob City.
Anyway, where were we? Oh, yes. Duke and North Carolina took care of business in their respective NCAA Tournament openers. Neither contest will see extensive coverage in the wake of a few of upsets. Along with Florida Gulf Coast's shocker, La Salle and Ole Miss provided enough bracket-busting drama to distract everyone from the rest of Friday's games.
2. North Carolina shot 50 percent, drained eleven 3-pointers and had four starters finish with double-figure scoring. At one point the Heels built up a 20-point lead over Villanova and looked primed for cruise control the rest of the night.
So how did this game get away from Carolina? Turnovers, rebounding and scoring droughts.
The Heels let the lead dwindle to single-digits by halftime by failing to knock down a field goal after Dexter Strickland landed a jumper with 5:18 left on the clock. They also turned the ball over a total of 17 times and were unable to pull down anything on the offensive glass.
Roy Williams gave Jackson Simmons considerable minutes in the second half in an attempt to plug a rebounding hole, but Villanova continued to do work on the boards. The Wildcats managed to pull down nearly 80 percent of North Carolina's missed shots and ended the game with 38 total rebounds.
3. Timely shooting from Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston and Marcus Paige helped North Carolina overcome their woes.
The trio came through in a key stretch with roughly six minutes left in the game and the Heels up 57-50. Hairston and Bullock traded 3-pointers to keep the Heels out in front. Paige then hit a jumper, a 3-pointer and his two free throws.
They will get their next challenge Sunday evening in a showcase game against No. 1 seed Kansas (5:15 p.m. WRAL-TV / 99.9 FM The Fan)
4. While Duke never relinquished the lead to Albany like North Carolina did with Villanova, the Blue Devils didn't exactly leave the Great Danes in the dust.
The lack of urgency didn't sit well with Mike Krzyzewski or Mason Plumlee. At one point late in the game, Plumlee told his teammates "Listen, if we don't win that game, my career is over," the Fayetteville Observer reported.
The palpable angst is understandable considering Duke has been constantly reminded of their early NCAA tournament exit at the hands of Lehigh last season.
5. Plumlee and Seth Curry carried the load for Duke. The seniors combined for 49 points on a very efficient 19-of-25 shooting. The rest of the Devils struggled to make only 8 field goals.
6. Ryan Kelly is of particular concern. The senior has failed to recapture the magic of his first game back from a foot injury on March 2.
Since dropping 36 points on Miami, Kelly is only 8-of-23 shooting in the last three games and coming off a forgettable defensive performance against Maryland in the ACC Tournament. He wasn't much better as Albany had success off the dribble.
Clearly Kelly is still readjusting, but that incredible performance against the Hurricanes has skewed the expectations.
He and the others get plenty of time to rest. They play in the nightcap Sunday with a 9:40 p.m. tip against Creighton (TBS / 99.9 FM The Fan).