ATLANTA – Each and every game, CoachCal.com will talk with assistant coach John Robic about Kentucky’s plan of attack. Coach Robic is responsible for scouting the opposition. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Robic will tell us his keys to the game, an X-factor and who Kentucky has to watch for on the opposing team.
Robic: I think the biggest thing that stands out is they have some veteran players that are really big factors with Mason Plumlee, a senior, Ryan Kelly, a senior, and Seth Curry, who is also a senior. You have three senior starters that have played in a ton of big games. Curry is coming off of an injury but played 30 minutes in their opener. Plumlee is a wide body down low that is athletic. They do a good job finding him in the post. Kelly is a stretch four man who can really shoot the 3 at 6-11. He’s very similar to Kyle Wiltjer. He plays a similar-type game. And then Curry is just a dead-eye shooter. They probably do have an obvious advantage with senior leadership, but our guys are going in with a mindset that we’ve got to take away some of their strengths and make it their weakness. It’s going to come down to which team guards the perimeter better and which team does a good job on the backboards, which has obviously been a point of emphasis with us this week.
CoachCal.com extras: Both teams won their openers, but Kentucky’s 72-69 victory over Maryland had a little more clout than Duke’s 74-55 win over Georgia State. The Blue Devils, ranked ninth in the country, hit 11 3-pointers in that game and got double-digit performances from Plumlee, Curry and Tyler Thornton.
What: No. 3/3 UK (1-0) vs. No. 9/9 Duke (1-0)
When: Tuesday, 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: Atlanta, Georgia Dome (30,000)
Game notes: UK | Duke
Feature: If Harrow can’t go, Goodwin ready to handle point
Video interviews: Cal, Cauley-Stein, Goodwin and Polson
Video feature: On the road again
News: Wiltjer wins SEC Player of the Week
News: Harrow out, Mays in for Duke
News: Three Cats on Naismith watch list
Record: 27-7 last year
Head coach: Mike Krzyzewski (855-232 at Duke)
Nickname: Blue Devils
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Player to watch: Mason Plumlee (19 points, 14 rebounds in first game)
Series history: UK leads 11-8
Last meeting: Duke won 95-92 in overtime the 2002 NCAA Tournament
1. Handle pressure
2. Make entry passes for point guard easy
3. Take advantage of wing athleticism
Robic: Offensively we’re going to have to handle pressure. Without Ryan Harrow, that’s going to be a big thing, especially in the half court. We’re going to have to be able to get open on the wings for our entry passes. We’re going to have to be able to drive the ball offensively and try to take advantage of our athleticism on the perimeter. We’ve really got to run hard in transition and try to get some easy baskets, and then make easy plays. They’re a man-to-man team. They may press a little bit because Maryland was fairly effective in it, but typically a Duke team is not a pressing team. They’ve sort of hung their hat on half-court defense and play solidly.
CoachCal.com extras: It was a tale of two halves offensively for UK in the first game. Kentucky was surprisingly efficient in the first half against Maryland, scoring 49 points on 58.1-percent shooting, but things quickly changed in the second half as the Terrapins threw some defensive looks at the Cats that they haven’t worked on this year. UK was slowed to 23 points in the second half and made just six field goals.
1. Limit the low post
2. Crash the glass
3. Guard the 3-point line
Robic: Their stats after one game are a little misleading because they played Georgia State, who played all zone. They took 24 3-pointers, but then again, Duke typically does shoot a lot of 3-pointers. They have good shooters. They penetrate to kick out for 3s. They run to the 3-point line in transition. You’re going to see a lot of similar actions with them and us. They run a lot handoffs and a lot of pin-downs into handoffs. We’ve got to do a good job of making sure that if they do shoot 3s that they’re contested without fouling. And then obviously we have to rebound the ball off the defensive glass a lot better. That was a huge emphasis this weekend after the Maryland game. With young kids, when the shot goes up they have a tendency to follow the ball instead of finding a man and keeping him off the boards. Anybody can rebound if you stop playing, so we have to continue to play, find a man and then get the ball.
CoachCal.com extras: For UK, the glaring negative from the Maryland game was obviously the defensive rebounding, or lack thereof. The Terrapins grabbed a whopping 28 offensive rebounds, but the Cats were fortunate Maryland only scored 19 second-chance points. They likely won’t have that luxury if Duke grabs anywhere close to that number, although the Blue Devils mustered just six offensive rebounds against Georgia State.
Player to watch for –Duke forward Mason Plumlee
Robic: He’s their main post threat. Right now he’s their only post threat because his brother is hurt. They truly do try to play inside-out and try to post up Plumlee. If he doesn’t have anything they’re going to kick it out and play for the 3. If we don’t rebound again this game, Plumlee is going to make a living on the offensive glass.
CoachCal.com extras: Plumlee was a one-man wrecking crew in Duke’s season opener, recording 19 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. John Calipari said Plumlee is “clearly” better than Maryland’s Alex Len, who had his way with the Cats to a tune of 23 points and 12 rebounds.
X-factor: Handling the pressure without Ryan Harrow
Robic: Jarrod Polson was ready for his opportunity last game and we’ll need him again without Ryan this game. He’s the one that said for the last three years that he’s played against really good players every day in practice and that it’s made him better. He has gotten better. He made big plays, played within himself. He played hard. He was in the right spots, got the ball to the right people and he competed.
CoachCal.com extras: Without Harrow, the key to the game could be Kentucky’s point-guard play vs. Duke’s half-court pressure. Archie Goodwin and Polson will see the majority of the minutes at the point, and both played well in UK’s season opener against Maryland. Polson played the best game of his UK career in Brooklyn, N.Y., recording a career-high 10 points and a career-high three assists without a turnover. Goodwin committed just three turnovers and scored 16 points in a team-high 37 minutes against Maryland. Georgia State turned the ball over 16 times against Duke’s pressure.
The bottom line
Robic: I think the biggest thing to take from last game is that we learned that we were able to get off to good starts. We really executed pretty well. We drove the ball to the basket. We were active defensively in that first half. I think the biggest thing that showed is Maryland made a run at us and came back and took the lead, but we dug down and made plays, made free throws when we needed. It was a good way to learn. You’re always better off learning off winning than a loss.
CoachCal.com extras: For a team that’s absent all of one major piece from last year’s national championship team, Friday’s second-half composure was pretty impressive. UK blew a 15-point lead and even trailed midway through the second half, but the Cats hit free throws late and passed their first test of the year. Can they do it again on an even bigger stage against one of their biggest rivals? The Cats own an 11-8 advantage in the series but haven’t beaten Duke since 1998.
Team stats and rankings
|FG percentage defense||33.3||37.3|
|3-point percentage defense||15.8||35.7|
|Steals per game||5.0||4.0|
|Blocks per game||11.0||6.0|
|Assists per game||12.0||17.0|
|Points per game||Archie Goodwin (16.0)||Mason Plumlee (19.0)|
|Rebounds per game||Nerlens Noel (9.0)||Mason Plumlee (14.0)|
|Field-goal percentage||Jarrod Polson (80.0)||Amile Jefferson (100.0)|
|3-point percentage||Archie Goodwin (100.0)||Tyler Thornton (50.0)|
|Free-throw percentage||Jarrod Polson (100.0)||Tyler Thornton, Quinn Cook (100.0)|
|Assists per game||Jarrod Polson (3.0)||Ryan Kelly, Rasheed Sulaimon (4.0)|
|Blocks per game||Willie Cauley-Stein (4.0)||Mason Plumlee (4.0)|
|Steals per game||Nerlens Noel, Julius Mays (2.0)||Tyler Thornton (2.0)|