That's Why They're No. 1: Duke 97, Texas 66

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- No. 1 Duke gave Texas a crash course in Basketball 101, handing coach Rick Barnes the worst loss of his Longhorn tenure, 97-66, Saturday at The Meadowlands. In a rare regular season matchup pitting college hoops top two teams, Texas put four players in double-figures, but it was not enough to overcome scoring-machine J.J. Redick who drained a career-best 41 points.

"As good as they were, we're not that bad," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "We're a better team than we showed today. If it takes a loss like this to be where we need to be heading into conference and post-season play, I'm willing to take it. We will definitely learn some things from this. We have to. We have no choice."

The learning experience involves doing a better job of getting the ball down low to C LaMarcus Aldridge, Barnes added. The sophomore paced his squad with a quiet 21 points (8-of-13 FG).

"Hopefully, our players will realize how good of a player LaMarcus is," Barnes said. "He's got to get more touches than he's getting."

P.J. Tucker and Kenton Paulino chipped in 14 apiece. Daniel Gibson finished with 13 points following a 6-of-11 outing. Senior F Brad Buckman left the game with 4:53 left in the first period with a right ankle injury and did not return. He was able to walk off the court, however, on his own.

"We never expected that we would win like this but Buckman's injury hurt them severely," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "I really think Buckman. for their team, is their heart and soul, along with Tucker. You lose more than you lose stats when you lose Buckman. Hopefully, he's not out for long because I really love that kid."

Coach K is being too kind, and that's no slam on Buckman. Though it's early in the season, this is a Texas team looking for its collective identity now that so many of its parts are healthy (relative to last year). It's fairly clear that Barnes wants Aldridge to assume that identity but, on a frigid Saturday, the big guy built his total on putbacks rather than on entry passes to the post. The rub on top-ranked Duke, a program that has all the pedigree and personnel to grab the first national title of Redick's career, is that the group may be vulnerable off the dribble. Gibson is a fine shooter but still has a ways to go in running the floor and distributing the rock if he is, indeed, the best point guard in D-I hoops, as Sports Illustrated proclaimed. It's safe to say Tucker is still making the transition to the wing, but it's still unclear (to me, at least) what sort of post-up presence Tucker is intended to assume. (Coach K said Redick did a good job of guarding Tucker; Redick privately said he didn't shadow him all that closely.)

Yet, there's no question who personifies Duke these days. Redick was within one point of his scoring average (22.9) by halftime. Redick nailed 9-of-16 from outside the arc and the NCAA's all-time leader in free throw percentage (.932) hit all six of his shots from the foul line.

"J.J. Redick was terrific and I'm not taking anything away from him," Barnes said. "He got comfortable. Whether we allowed it or not, he got going. He made some tough shots."

Texas is the first school in NCAA history to have both its basketball and football teams play in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the same season. It was also just the 18th regular-season contest in college hoops history between the top two squads and the first in nearly eight years. Meanwhile, for UT, it was the third straight Big Apple blowout loss to the Dukies. If it's any consolation, Duke rolled Texas in 2000 (95-69) and in 2003 (89-61) and the Horns advanced to the Sweet 16 in both seasons,

Aldridge's turnaround jumper gave Texas an early 6-4 lead before Redick and Sean Dockery answered with a pair of treys. Another Redick three-ball followed by his jumper spotted the Blue Devils a 17-11 lead. (Here, Barnes sat down Brad Buckman, told him to quit worrying about the offensive end of the court and play some defense.)

Gibson's driving layup trimmed the Duke lead, 18-15, but Redick drained his third trey about eight minutes into the first period. Tucker's bankshot on the inbounds pass kept Texas close, trailing 24-19. Redick answered with another shot from outside the arc before Buckman got on the scoreboard at the 9:15 mark with a pair of FTs. Aldridge's slam made it a 27-23 game. But the Horns committed three straight turnovers as Duke pushed the lead, 33-23. Tucker's layup ended an early 8-0 Duke run.

"We didn't take care of the ball as well as we should have," said Tucker. "We didn't play defense for the whole shot clock. You've got to take these games and learn from them."

Josh McRoberts recorded back-to-back slams, making it a 39-27 Blue Devil lead as Buckman limped back to the bench (right leg). Sophomore Mike Williams checked-in, responding with a blocked shot and a jumper from the top of the key to trim the deficit, 39-31. But the Horns could not corral Redick, who added a pair of free threes and another bucket, as Texas trailed at the break, 45-33.

Gibson's father called out during the second-period shoot-around, "Get it down to 10 by 15 (minutes left) and y'all will be all right." The chip off the 'ol block drained a pair of jumpers before feeding Paulino for the trey as Texas mounted a brief uprising. Aldridge's slam followed Redick's three-ball to cut the lead in half, 50-44, but the Horns would then go nearly nine minutes without a FG. Behind Redick and F Sheldon Williams 23 points, the Blue Devils launched a 21-2 run and never looked back.

"We hit them, they hit back and then we didn't respond," Barnes said. "That's the part that bothers me most of all. We weren't as aggressive as we need to be and it can snowball on you."

During the Devils' decisive run, Texas rushed shots, turned the ball over and still had no answer for Redick's are-you-kidding-me treys from the parking lot. He made them spinning the lane and he made them off screens, he made them by creating open looks and he made them with a Longhorn in his face.

"He's a great shooter and was knocking down shots any way he could," Gibson said. "A lot of times we had good defense on him. He had the hot hand today."

Friday night, Coach K showed his squad eight film clips of Texas pulling down rebounds. He told his top-ranked squad that there was something they could learn from the aggressive way in which Texas crashed the board. That's why he was especially pleased with 31-30 rebounding advantage in the final stats. Texas shot 45.8 percent (27-of-59) from the floor while Duke drained 31-of-58 (53.4 percent).

By intermission, either because of his Heisman commitment or because has had seen enough, Vince Young left the building.

The Horns fell to 8-1 and look to rebound against Tennessee, Dec. 17, at 1 p.m. in Austin on an ESPN telecast.


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