Kuiper’s 3-Pointer: Duke-UCLA

Former college coach – and current college coaching consultant – Denny Kuiper breaks down Duke’s 80-63 win over UCLA on Thursday night. 

I really enjoyed watching this game. UCLA is a very talented team, but last night Duke played at a very high level. As the game progressed into the second half, I think Duke showed the college basketball world that it may end up being a very good team.

Duke was by far the most poised team tonight. UCLA looked like a team that is playing for a coach who has not been with them that long, which is exactly the case with Steve Alford. The Duke players trusted each other in the second half, while the Bruins individually tried to win the game.

Instead of doing the normal three pointers, I’m going to briefly address several interesting aspects and players in this game.

Jabari Parker

Duke forward Jabari ParkerWhen you look at Duke’s team you have to start with Parker. He is the real deal. While Parker is very talented in all aspects of the game, what I especially like about him is the energy and enthusiasm with which he plays. He also appears to be a supportive teammate, which is an awesome quality for the “star” of the team to have.


Rasheed Sulaimon

Rasheed Sulaimon:  You could not help but feel happy for this kid last night.  If you look at the stat sheet Sulaimon was not overly impressive, but in watching the game I saw an energetic and engaged player, which was something he has lacked this year. Hopefully, this game will get him over the hump and help him get back to being the player he is capable of becoming.

Amile Jefferson

Look out Duke opponents if Jefferson keeps playing the way he did against the Bruins. He did everything that Duke sorely needs. He rebounded, guarded and passed, ending up with 11 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocked shots and 2 assists.

Duke’s 3-Pointers

Almost half the Blue Devils’ 66 shots were 3-pointers (32). They made 11 for a decent rate of 34 percent.  That is a LOT of 3-pointers. UCLA played zone, which contributed to the Blue Devils shooting from the outside, but I also think that is kind of what they Devils do. The Blue Devils have several good perimeter shooters and not a great inside game.  More than most Duke teams, I think how this squad shoot jump shots will have a big impact on its success.


The Bruins went to the zone early because they could not guard Duke man-to-man.  At first, the 2-3 zone was effective, but like most zones after a while the offense figured it out and sliced it up. That is what Duke did starting the second half. In the first half against the zone, I think the Blue Devils settled for so-so shots.

Duke’s Roles

I think the Blue Devils are really settling into roles. The shooters are shooting, the passers are passing and the rebounders and defenders are rebounding and defending.  I think Jefferson, Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton are especially important to the Blue Devils success because of their willingness to do the unselfish and dirty work.

UCLA’s Poise

The Bruins got frustrated in the second half and got selfish offensively. They took too many early and poor shots. They were trying to hit home runs and not singles. One example came with about 3:40 to go in the game. With the Bruins down 10, their talented freshman Zach LaVine got a backdoor lay-up but tried (and missed) a windmill dunk instead making sure to just get the two points.

Kyle Anderson

He is an all-around talent. Anderson can do it all. He ended up with 15 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals. But, he also had 6 turnovers. I got an opportunity a couple of summers ago to watch Anderson for a week straight at the NBPA Top 100 camp. While I admired his game, I thought at the time – and still do after tonight’s game – that he is at times too casual.  I realize he is a smooth player, but several of those turnovers in this game were just plain careless.