NEW YORK – The 2K Sports Classic to benefit Coaches vs. Cancer gave us some interesting insight. The coaches will tell you, and rightfully so, the season is a marathon not a sprint. Regardless, you want to start with a good rhythm and stride to weather the rough spots as the ‘race’ progresses.
Duke 83, Southern Illinois 58
Michigan 55, UCLA 52
UCLA 77, Southern Illinois 60
Duke 71, Michigan 56
Duke – Claimed the championship but faced a challenge each night. The Blue Devils actually found the semifinal to be rather difficult. Southern Illinois battled gamely, enjoyed some early leads and kept within striking distance until ten minutes remained. At that point Duke went on a run to distance themselves from the Salukis.
“With Duke you know they will play hard, defend and take things away from you,” said Southern Illinois mentor Chris Lowery.
Duke received contributions both nights from sophomore Nolan Smith at the guard spot. Kyle Singler earned MVP honors with his 15-point, 8-rebound effort in the finals. Another bright spot, who can make inside play easier for Singler, was Brian Zoubek. The 7-1 junior center mixed it up inside and provided a nice presence on the blocks. His rebounding takes pressure off Singler inside. Zoubek also played a dual role against the Michigan zone, as he established himself down low and at times came high to receive a pass and look for cutters underneath.
Southern Illinois – If the game was 30 minutes, Chris Lowery’s club would have been in great condition. On both nights the Salukis were competitive and battling hard. Then the roof simply caved in and the respective contests each turned into a rout.
“We were tied with 8:48 to play,” Lowery said after the loss to UCLA. “For the second straight night we went into a meltdown. We missed assignments and had turnovers. We have some work to do to get there (put 40 minutes together).”
All was not lost for the Salukis, who left MSG 0-2. They earned respect of both opponents despite final scores that would suggest otherwise, and they showed some nice talent. Freshman point guard Kevin Dillard impressed and earned all-tournament honors. Carlton Fay, a 6-8 sophomore, operated inside and on the perimeter. Nick Evans, a 6-11 freshman, had a strong outing against Duke. And the nice thing about Lowery’s young talent, it will continue to get better and not leave Carbondale early for the NBA.
Michigan – Is there any doubt John Beilein is one of the best coaches in America? All the Michigan mentor does is prepare his teams extremely well and win, no matter where he is and with the same system he’s used through the coaching ranks. In the semifinals they gave UCLA fits with their 1-3-1 zone. The Bruins were guilty of 17 turnovers in that contest. Duke had more success against the 1-3-1 in the final. Still, Michigan was there. The problem was perimeter shots that fell in the semifinal, especially in the second half, did not against Duke. The looks were there for the Wolverines but the shooting percentage (35% against Duke) wasn’t.
Manny Harris was effective at the guard spot. DeShawn Sims, a 6-8 junior, is effective outside, in the paint and in transition. The Wolverines need someone to step up consistently to help the aforementioned pair. Freshman Stu Douglas shot well against UCLA (10 pts) but not against Duke(1 of 5 for 3 points).
UCLA – Ben Howland says this is a young team that has a ways to go. We believe him. They led by six in a slower paced game at the half against Michigan. The Wolverines then came out strong the second half, gained the lead in the stretch and closed it out.
For the Bruins Darren Collison was consistent both nights in the backcourt. Up front Alfred Aboya was relatively quiet against Michigan but came up big with a 22-point outing in the consolation. His contributions will be needed on a regular basis. Nikola Dragovic, a 6-9 junior, showed he’s not afraid to shoot, and hit, a few from the perimeter.
“This was a good experience for us,” Howland said following the consolation. “You are on the center stage at Madison Square Garden and we came off a long road trip.”
Collison hinted that the ultimate trip would be another Final Four.
“It’s a learning process where we want (the Final Four),” he said. “This is something we can learn from and build on.”
Preparation: Back-to-back days in a tournament leave little time for preparation. John Beilein went over things Duke did, but focused more on his own team’s defensive and offensive execution. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski opted for a game day afternoon walk through.
“We prepare for all zones in pre-season,” Krzyzewski said. “The Michigan 1-3-1 is a little different so we came in (to MSG) and went over a few things for about an hour.”
It worked and their method of attack was evident from the first possession. The Blue Devils went inside to junior swingman Gerald Henderson (a threat in the paint or outside), and later attacked from the perimeter.
In the semis: Southern Illinois had 20 field goals to Duke’s 18 and lost by 25. A main reason was the charity stripe. Duke was 40-57 to the Salukis’ 12-19. Lowery took the high road in discussing the foul disparity, noting his team had themselves to blame.
“We didn’t help out and had poor defensive positioning especially the second half,” he said. “That is what got us into foul trouble.”
Beilein on the tournament: “We played four games and went 3-1 facing two top five teams. We are pleased. We (coaches) have young guys that learned a lot. We just have to put them in situations to get better.”
Kyle Singler, Duke (MVP)
Kevin Dillard, Southern Illinois
Darren Collison, UCLA
Manny Harris, Michigan
Gerald Henderson, Duke
On The Baseline
- The only school to bring a spirit group was UCLA, which brought 4 dance team members. Coach Molly Vehling was especially proud her alma mater, the one that traveled the farthest, was represented. “Our kids (dance team) had a great time and saw a lot of New York,” Vehling said. Following the consolation they took in Broadway. Which show? That’s easy: the Rockettes.
- A crowd of 12,453 attended the final.