UCLA vs. Duke basketball: Krzyzewski and Alford have their say

Duke is "becoming a really good team now," Coach Mike Krzyzewski says.
(Jason DeCrow / Associated Press)

A couple of observations from Duke’s 80-63 win over UCLA on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden:

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski is a master of the post-game news conference. Or at least he was after his eighth-ranked Blue Devils played well in a nationally televised win before a near-sellout crowd at one of sport’s mecca arenas.

Some great entertainers impress by the way they can dance and sing without missing a move or a note. Krzyzewski impresses with the way he delivers subtle messages while performing a public relations dance while seated at a podium.


An example: While much of the post-game buzz centered on freshman sensation Jabari Parker -- who is very good -- Krzyzewski made sure he noted everyone else’s contributions. In fact, he mentioned all six of the other players in his rotation by name.

Duke has two former blue-chip recruits coming off the bench as sophomores, Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson, and Krzyzewski made sure everyone knew they played well when they combined for 19 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in 41 minutes.

Krzyzewski also went out of his way to laud the only two seniors who play, starters Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton, who combined for seven points, seven rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes.

Duke was “becoming a really good team now,” the coach said, and it started with Hairston and Thornton. “They are two of our senior captains and they do all the dirty work,” Krzyzewski said. “All the talking that goes on, they want everyone to be good and they’re two selfless guys.

“When these other guys came in,” he added, referring to Sulaimon and Jefferson, “the two best cheerers for them were those two seniors.”

In other words: Sophomore reserves, even though you’re not starting, we need you. Senior starters, even though the other guys might play more at times, we love you.

It’s the dance successful coaches learn in order to stroke all the egos and keep everyone happy.

As for Parker, who is expected to spend one season at Duke before becoming one of the top couple of picks in the next NBA draft, Krzyzewski sent a message when talking about him as well.

Parker was terrific, the coach said, though he still required polish. He needed to work on his defense and also moving without the ball.

“He is an outstanding player but he can become better and that is my responsibility,” Krzyzewski said. “That is why he came to Duke, to learn and to become better.”

Message: Yo, high school superstars: If you’re a one-and-done, no worries, I’d love to be the guy to help you make that NBA transition.

Yes, Krzyzewski dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” -- all in about 15 minutes. The guy is good.

As for UCLA, Coach Steve Alford’s drum beat of the Bruins being young and inexperienced – it’s how he seems to frame everything that’s disappointing -- doesn’t really wash.

Twin forwards David and Travis Wear are fifth-year seniors, and starting guard Norman Powell is a junior. Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson, the other starters, are sophomores who started all last season.

While it is true that Anderson has changed positions, playing mostly point guard this season, the fact is that’s the position where he’s most experienced and comfortable.

The Bruins’ top reserves, Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford, are freshmen, but the overall problem isn’t a lack of experience. It’s the lack of a physical force inside who can finish and be productive in a half-court game.

The Wears are each 6-10 but seem more comfortable on a wing rather than pounding inside. And Tony Parker, for all the weight he’s lost, still doesn’t have the quickness or lift to be consistently effective against athletic opponents.

Parker was the recipient of a couple of nifty passes Thursday night, but couldn’t complete the play.

One player who could help the Bruins is Wanaah Bail, who is coming back from an injury and didn’t play at all against Duke.

At 6-9 and 215 pounds, Bail has an NBA physique.

But he’s also a freshman. And inexperienced.


Game summary: Duke 80, UCLA 63

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