Going Zone On Defense?

The Sports Xchange reviews the year to date including Duke's win over Florida State and the loss to Georgetown over the weekend.

Duke has experimented with different defensive setups this season, in part because the Blue Devils generally have a taller lineup than in past seasons. And they're not exactly bubbling over with depth in the backcourt.

While they want defense to be the foundation, it also has been troubling in a few games.

Georgetown continually found high-percentage shots against the Blue Devils, who allowed the Hoyas to make 27 of 33 shots from 2-point range. Georgetown's two offensive rebounds don't signal a bad job by the Hoyas because they didn't have many misses to retrieve.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has been willing to try different defenses, but the Blue Devils pride themselves on their man-to-man defense. This might not always be serving them best, because their pressure isn't extended as far on the court as in many past seasons. But that man-to-man strategy is certainly within the team's comfort zone.

Duke used zone for several sequences against Florida State and it worked out well for those purposes. It's clear that something has to be modified ... or the Blue Devils risk the possibility of going through stretches without being able to stop the opposition.

The 89-77 loss to Georgetown would have been more lopsided if Duke hadn't scored the last seven points in the final 50 seconds. Georgetown had 80 points with more than five minutes to play.

--Senior guard Jon Scheyer passed former point guard Bobby Hurley on Duke's all-time scoring list during the loss at Georgetown on Jan. 30. Scheyer has 1,742 career points, good for 18th place in team history. Scheyer has led the Blue Devils in scoring in only one of the past six games, though his 18.7 points average is the best on the team.

--Duke's defense couldn't contain Georgetown, which made 33 of 46 shots from the field. That's 71.7 percent, setting a record for the highest shooting percentage for a Duke opponent in the history of the program. It marked the fourth time in school history that a Duke opponent had shot better than 70 percent against the Blue Devils.

ON THE SPOT: There's the notion that Duke finally has interior depth so the Blue Devils have some fouls to give. But that hasn't always worked in Duke's favor because opponents have sometimes reached bonus free-throw situations relatively quickly. Plus, the Blue Devils had a situation against Florida State when center Brian Zoubek was in foul trouble and forward Miles Plumlee was being tended to for a head injury. Against Georgetown, Zoubek picked up two fouls within a minute of entering the game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We haven't accomplished anything yet. We have a couple of losses (in the ACC). But my experience in the ACC, as a senior now, is you can lose any game any given night. Having that mindset and making sure you kill a team is a mentality we have to have for the rest of our games." -- F Lance Thomas, whose team will play rematches from January games in its next two outings against Georgia Tech and Boston College.


SEASON RECAP: The Blue Devils haven't put together a three-game winning streak since entering the teeth of conference play. They've done enough to remain among the front runners in the ACC, but the loss to Georgetown might do some damage in regard to NCAA Tournament seeding. The Blue Devils' last two losses have come when opponents have had hot shooting hands, and Duke hasn't had an answer defensively.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Jon Scheyer, G Nolan Smith, C Miles Plumlee, F Kyle Singler, F Lance Thomas. Key Subs -- C Brian Zoubek, F Mason Plumlee, F Ryan Kelly, G Andre Dawkins.


  • Duke 60, Clemson 47
  • Duke 70, Florida State 56
  • Georgetown 89, Duke 77

  • Georgia Tech, Thursday, Feb. 4
  • at Boston College, Saturday, Feb. 6
  • at North Carolina, Wednesday, Feb. 10
  • Maryland, Saturday, Feb. 13
  • at Miami, Wednesday, Feb. 17

IN FOCUS: Duke has a chance to avenge an earlier loss when Georgia Tech visits for Thursday night's game. The Blue Devils were rolling when they stumbled to the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta. Less than 48 hours after facing Georgia Tech, Duke will play at Boston College, which will have had a week layoff. Duke didn't do so well against Georgetown during the past weekend when the Hoyas had two-plus extra days of preparation in addition to the home court on their side.

--G Jon Scheyer has the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the ACC, but he has had some difficulty with ball handling in recent games. His three turnovers at Georgetown followed a four-turnover outing against Florida State. Still, he hasn't had a game this season with more turnovers than assists. For the fourth game in a row, he played at least 38 minutes.

--F Miles Plumlee scored six points at Georgetown for his biggest offensive contributions in four games. He has a total of only 10 points during that four-game stretch. More disturbing might be his average of three rebounds across the past two games while averaging 20 minutes of playing time.

--F Ryan Kelly played seven minutes without scoring against Georgetown. That might be significant only because that's the most playing time in a game for the freshman since December. In his limited playing time, Kelly struggles to become part of the flow offensively and he hasn't taken more than one shot in the past nine games.

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