CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM—Going into the opening round of the NIT Season Tip-Off, the No. 6 Duke Blue Devils and the UNC Asheville Bulldogs came packed with a entirely different set of concerns. While Duke was focused on grabbing more rebounds and encouraging its freshman phenom, Jabari Parker, to willfully roll out his fourth consecutive 20+ point performance, the first page of the Asheville game notes included a pretty frivolous concern:
“Please call us UNC Asheville: When referring to our school, please call us UNC Asheville in the first reference and the second reference can just be Asheville...There is no hyphen in our name, and we especially have never used North Carolina-Asheville”
Hyphen or no hyphen, Asheville had a bigger problem on their hands,
Before Monday night’s game, the Bulldog’s freshman point guard Andrew Rowsey, averaged 19.7 points per game, but failed to score any buckets of his own against Duke on a frustrating 1-for-7 shooting night (a Rowsey layup was goaltended by Rodney Hood late in the second half).
The Bulldogs opened up their season against the then-No. 1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats, so Rowsey’s initiation into college play has been a bit overwhelming, but his difficulties mainly came from Duke point guard Quinn Cook’s determination on defense.
“It showed a lot of discipline by Quinn and and a lot of energy just to try to keep the ball away from him and never leave him,” said Coach Krzyzewski after the game.
The Bulldogs were also missing an an integral piece of their starting lineup—power forward Will Weeks. This freed up a bunch of space down low for Jabari Parker to pound his way around the paint for some hard-earned buckets and also for Parker to exercise another one of his favorite options—the interior pass. Ever since the his 27 point performance against KU, we’ve seen Parker pass up more shots in an effort to get his teammates more involved and get everybody to play better. Sometimes this has resulted in misguided, interior passes, which is why Coach K doesn’t always agree with Parker’s decision to pass first, although he calls he calls a “good problem” to have.
“I thought he tried to do it too much, instead of making a play to another guy on the perimeter.” said Coach K. “That’s the most turnovers we had. A number of them were interior passes and the interior is not a strength of our team. It’s a part of our team. Our strength is on the perimeter and our strength is Jabari having the ball and doing something with it—for him.”
Parker still managed to score 21 points in just 19 minutes and when he wasn’t in the game or didn’t have the ball, Hood continued to be Duke’s most efficient shot creator. Hood’s confidence level has soared over Duke’s last two home games and it shows from the moment he puts the ball on the ground for a drive. The lefty’s 18 point game against Asheville came packaged with one of the season’s most ferocious one-handed dunks after Hood sliced his way through the lane and threw the ball down with the righteous intensity of someone who spent all of last year watching from the Duke bench as Mason Plumlee threw down dunk-after-dunk-after-dunk.
Hood also shot 3-for-4 from behind the arc, joined by another impressive shooting night from Andre Dawkins, who scored 13 points on 3-for-6 three-point shooting. Freshman, Semi Ojeleye sank all three of his field goal attempts, including his first two 3-pointers in a Blue Devil uniform. “They’re so gifted from the 3-point line," said Asheville head coach, Nick McDevitt. "I think that’s where they’re different than most other teams. When you got a guy like Jabari Parker out there that can score in the paint but who’s also shooting over 60% from the three, you got problems.”
Problems much bigger than a hyphen.
This evening, Cameron Indoor will host its second and final night of the NIT East Regional first round when the The 3-1 Blue Devils take on 4-0 East Carolina University at 6 p.m. The winner moves on to Madison Square Garden, where the rest of the tournament will resume on Wednesday, Nov. 27.
for the Duke/UNC Asheville box score.