Madison Square Garden as seen from the upper level press box during the 2K Classic. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)
NEW YORK CITY - It will be Duke versus Georgetown for the 2K Classic championship. Riding a strong second half, the Blue Devils defeated VCU 79-71 in the second semifinal at Madison Square Garden to advance to the championship.
At The Half
Possessions: Duke 33, VCU 34
Offensive Efficiency: Duke 115, VCU 115
Offense was the key word. Both teams shot over 55 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes. The result? An entertaining half for fans, not so much for two defensive-minded coaches.
At the 16-minute media timeout in the second half, VCU led, 47-44, an important juncture as they ‘held serve,’ so to speak, and didn’t allow the Blue Devils to get the spurt right out of the gate. It did arrive a little later, however. A flurry of threes near the midway point, coupled with some rushed shots on the VCU side, soon turned this into a double-digit affair in Duke's favor.
The Four Factors
eFG %: Duke 57, VCU 49
Free Throw Rate: Duke 64, VCU 21
Offensive Rebound %: Duke 34, VCU 25
Turnover Rate: Duke 20, VCU 18
What Duke did well: Make shots. The game can be maddeningly simple: Put the ball in the basket more, and you win. The Blue Devils shot a great eFG percentage largely due to eight treys, four of them courtesy of leading scorer Grayson Allen.
What VCU did well: Force turnovers. They did get Duke to commit turnovers at a 20 percent rate, which the Rams converted to a 15-11 advantage in points off turnovers. Constant pressure the entire 40 minutes forced Duke, at times, out of a comfort zone in the inititation of their offense.
Duke: Grayson Allen (30 points, 31 efficiency)
VCU: Melvin Johnson (20 points, 16 efficiency)
Numbers can be deceptive. Duke’s disparity in free throw rate was partially due to VCU being in a foul mode to force extra possessions as they trailed late in the game. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has to be concerned with a 19-for-34 performance from the charity stripe. The Blue Devils missed a number of free throws in the waning moments that could have salted the game away, as freshman Brandon Ingram was 4-for-11 at the line. After several last-minute misses, a conversion brought an ovation from the crowd.
VCU shot 4-for-13 from three-point range, a number of those attempts coming in the stretch, when the Rams tried to trim a three-possession deficit. Coach Will Wade will prepare for Wisconsin in the consolation with a word on shot selection. As noted, when Duke made their second-half run, VCU became too perimeter-oriented and neglected their inside and dribble penetration game.