Duke has lost four times this season. There is a common theme.
“They have struggled from the 3 sometimes in their losses,” Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller said. “And even in their tight games.”
And Miller was being kind. Duke hasn’t just struggled sometimes from 3-point range in its losses. The Blue Devils have struggled all the time.
Let’s just look at those defeats.
–Was 11 of 35 from 3-point range in a 66-61 loss to Florida State.
–Hit 5 of 26 while losing 93-78 to St. John’s.
–Made only 4 of 20 in a 64-60 defeat to Virginia Tech.
–Was 6 of 27 from beyond the arc in an 81-67 loss to North Carolina.
Add it all up … and Duke has shot 24.1 percent (26 of 108) from 3-point range in its losses.
“What you want to do is really defense the 3-point line as best you can,” Miller said. “I will say that is something we have been very good at from start to finish, and we’re going to need to be really good at that on Thursday.”
True. The Wildcats have been among the national leaders all season in 3-point defense. That’s partially due to Miller’s all-the-time man-to-man defense, with one of its core principles being tough on-ball pressure.
Arizona enters Thursday’s Sweet 16 game against Duke in Anaheim ranked fifth nationally in 3-point field-goal percentage defense, allowing teams to make 29.1 percent.
The Blue Devils like to shoot the 3. They do it often and (almost always) do it well.
They have made 286 of 764 attempts, 37.4 percent.
Arizona has made 283 of 709 attempts, 39.9 percent.
Duke has many notable shooters, including Nolan Smith, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Kyrie Irving, who returned from a long absence due to injury last week during the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats will take their chances with slumping Kyle Singler; he is just 2 of 25 from behind the arc in the past seven games. With any Arizona luck, Singler won’t have a Mike Dunleavy-like shooting performance from the 2001 national title game against the Wildcats.
“One of the goals against them is to do a really good job — as good as any team has done — in trying to make sure their 3-point shots are challenged,” Miller said. “They can really break the game open when they are hitting 3-point shots. …
“When they are making 3-points, to me they’re almost unstoppable.”
Arizona will have to defend like crazy … and then hope for the best.