After the blowout win against Clemson, which came with Jahlil Okafor out with an ankle injury, Mike Krzyzewski was asked to explain the reasoning behind Duke’s press. It was quite effective, forcing 14 turnovers and leading to 10 steals.
“We have it, so if we feel we need it we will use it,” Krzyzewski said. “Our theme for (Saturday) was ‘Strong Together.’ Sometimes when you’re playing man-to-man, it gets to be ‘this is my man.’ We thought that with the three-quarter court pick-up in two different ways, with the 2-2-1 and the 1-2-2 after free throws, we could be strong without getting hurt further up the court and hopefully be strong when we got to half court. Our guys worked. Basically, they knew they had each other’s back.
“They saw that Clemson had a hard time attacking it. They got through it, but they had a hard time attacking it, and then you could set up another defense. Every once in awhile you could be even more aggressive because there wasn’t an attack, it was just beat it across half court.”
Clemson coach Brad Brownell concurred.
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“The guards didn’t play well,” he said of his team. “The soft press bothered us all game. We acted like we’ve never seen that before, and it just threw us out of rhythm a bit. I thought we played scared, to be honest with you, at various points in the game, and probably didn’t compete as well as we normally do.”
Duke could press with Okafor, as the 2-2-1 press is basically an extension of the 2-1-2 zone. It’s just another trick the versatile Blue Devils have up their sleeve.