Barnes, Marshall hampered by Duke defense

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Harrison Barnes knew that the Blue Devils would be gunning for him Sunday after the freshman dropped 40 points in a record-breaking performance in the ACC semifinals.

Barnes was right on the money, and Duke’s defensive effort in the championship game was the deciding factor as the team captured its third consecutive ACC tournament title.

“The biggest difference has been our defensive intensity this entire weekend,” sophomore Ryan Kelly said.

That effort started with containing Barnes, North Carolina’s leading scorer. Kyle Singler drew the assignment but help was never far behind, allowing the senior forward to aggressively pressure Barnes on the perimeter. The frontcourt of Miles and Mason Plumlee, along with Kelly, did an effective job of blocking off the Tar Heels’ penetration into the lane, forcing them into contested shots or making him give the ball up.

As a result, Barnes couldn’t get into a rhythm on offense. He didn’t score until hitting a free throw over 11 minutes into the game and didn’t make a jumper until early in the second half. The freshman finished with 16 points on 15 shot attempts with no assists, despite commanding much of the defense’s attention.

“We played team defense on [Barnes] and everybody was ready to switch up on screens,” sophomore Seth Curry said. “We brought the fight to him.... Kyle came out ready to play with something to prove. He sent the message to him early.”

While Singler played lockdown defense on Barnes, his fellow senior Nolan Smith was instrumental in shutting down North Carolina’s other freshman phenom.

Point guard Kendall Marshall had his way with the Blue Devils in Chapel Hill in the teams’ last matchup Mar. 5, drawing defenders with effortless dribble penetration and finding open teammates to the tune of 11 assists. But Smith attacked Marshall from the outset Sunday, disrupting his ballhandling and never allowing the freshman to get comfortable. Marshall missed the first shot of the game and turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, and his uneasiness extended to the defensive end.

Tar Heels’ head coach Roy Williams noticed his point guard’s difficulties early, electing to replace him with the more experienced Leslie McDonald even before the first media timeout.

Smith’s pressure never let up throughout the game, and Marshall—the ACC’s assist leader—ended the contest with only four assists to five turnovers.

“I just love how tough [Smith] is,” Williams said. “You saw him yesterday, he made life tough for [Virginia Tech guard] Malcolm Delaney, and he really made life tough today for Kendall.”

Even when Barnes and Marshall got past their initial defenders, Duke’s interior defense protected the post more effectively than in the two regular-season matchups. The Blue Devils’ big men prevented the nation’s leading rebounding team from getting second shot opportunities, pulling down 14 defensive rebounds in the decisive first period.

The post defense was aided by the reemergence of Miles Plumlee, who earned second-team all-tournament honors after averaging just under nine points and seven rebounds per game. His size was instrumental in forcing Tyler Zeller and John Henson to work harder on the boards, both on the offensive and defensive glass.

Plumlee’s resurgence was representative of the entire team’s ability to rebound from a disappointing end to the regular season. After being embarrassed by North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Duke used defense to flip the script in Greensboro.


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