Adele, Kendrick Lamar will perform at Grammys

Written by Scott Mervis on .

The Grammy Awards just gave viewers a big reason to tune on Feb. 15 with the announcement that Adele, a 10-time Grammy winner and the top-selling artist of 2015, will be among the performers.

Also announced, with plenty more to come, are 11-time nominee Kendrick Lamar (whose "To Pimp a Butterfly" was the most acclaimed album of last year), Little Big Town and The Weeknd. There will also be a special tribute to 2016 MusiCares Person of the Year Lionel Richie.

It's safe to say that the work of David Bowie and Glenn Frey will be celebrated as well. Lemmy...not so sure.

The 58th annual Grammy Awards will be broadcast live on CBS at 8 p.m. Feb. 15 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

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A deep dive on Duquesne's defense

Written by Craig Meyer on .

(Photo: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

I had a story in today's Post-Gazette detailing Duquesne's defensive improvement this season, particularly down low, where they rank among the top 15 teams nationally in opponents' 2-point percentage.

The Dukes' progress defensively, at least on the interior, is something most anyone who has watched a game this season has noticed. And while my story details how that change came about -- switching to a defense with pack-line principles that aims to clog up lanes and prevent penetration -- I can only go so deep into the numbers that illustrate how and why they're so much better defensively.

So with the infinite space of the Internet and a forum that's more conducive to wonkish statistics, I wanted to take a closer look at those changes.

Teams aren't getting to the rim as frequently

Conventional basketball wisdom states that, unless you're a mutant outside shooter like Steph Curry, the closer you are to the basket, the more likely your shot is to go in.

While Duquesne is still a dismal at defending the 3-pointer, something they've almost resigned themselves to given their relatively short backcourt, they aren't letting opponents get to the rim as effectively. Only 31 percent of the total shots taken against the Dukes this season have come at the rim, the fourth-lowest percentage in the Atlantic 10. That means that if opponents aren't taking 3s and they go inside the arc, they are, more often than not, settling for long 2s, which is as inefficient of a shot as there is in basketball.

At rim shots A-10

Which brings us to the next topic...

When opponents are getting to the rim, they're getting blocked more

As the chart above showed, Duquesne is blocking 14.2 percent of shots taken at the rim, the second-best mark among A-10 teams, behind only Rhode Island, which has three of the conference's best shot-blockers on its roster (Hassan Martin, Earl Watson and Kuran Iverson).

At the epicenter of this trend is Darius Lewis. For how much more comfortable and adept as the 6-11 junior has looked offensively this season, he has been even better defensively. He is blocking 9.4 percent of 2s when he is on the court, up from 7.8 percent last year. His current mark is the 31st-best among Division I players.

They're preventing offensive rebounds and second-chance points

I didn't get to touch on this as much as I would have hoped to in the story (damn you, shrinking news hole), but Duquesne's improvement in preventing offensive rebounds has been perhaps the most important facet of this turnaround. While the Dukes weren't particularly bad at defending the 2 last season -- 47.7 percent, right around the middle of all college basketball teams -- they were horrid when it came to the defensive glass, allowing opponents to grab an offensive rebound on exactly one out of every three missed shots (277th in Division I).

What were once woes have now become a strength. Duquesne's opponents are now getting offensive rebounds on just 26.7 percent of their missed shots, ranking it among the 60 best teams in the country in that category. That figure is the product of several individuals who have improved as rebounders from last season to this one. During the 2014-15 campaign, only three Dukes grabbed at least 16 percent of available defensive rebounds when they were on the court -- Domo McKoy, TySean Powell and Lewis. This season, that number has doubled to six -- Nakye Sanders, Jordan Robinson, Powell, Lewis, L.G. Gill and Eric James.

We'll finish things up with a few thoughts and observations from the three people I spoke with for today's story. This goes into the topic a little bit more in depth and helps give you a better understanding of the team's progress on defense.

Jim Ferry

“Last year, our back line was so young. We had all freshmen and sophomore forwards and the sophomores barely played. We struggled in conversion, we fouled too much and we couldn’t contain the ball. That’s why we had to go to a 2-3 zone.”

“I spent so much time and my staff spent so much time studying analytics, film and everything to help change our defense this year. As soon as the season ended last year, there was a self-evaluation process of the way we played defense and what we needed to do to change it. We realized with our lack of length at the guard positions, we weren’t going to be a great 3-point field goal percentage defensive team, so we had to clean up everything else. And we’ve done a really good job of that. We’ve packed it in a little bit tighter. Our personnel is older and more experienced with it.”

“They’ve gotten better and better and better at it. The kids have totally bought into it. We defend with a lot of pride and we play faster defensively. We’ve carried over our mantra to offensive tempo to play faster on defense. We’re closing out gaps quicker. We’re just a tough team to score on getting to the basket and around the rim. Darius’ development from late last season has carried over. He’s a big body and a big rim protector.”

“Because of the way we defend, and we defend inside the arc very well, it puts us in better rebounding position. We’re making people make shots over us. We’re not allowing lanes to the basket. We’re crowding the post, we’re contesting every shot and we’re being physical with our block-outs. It’s something we preach in the program every day.”

“We take away peoples’ comfort. You saw it in the first half against St. Bonaventure. They just weren’t very comfortable. There’s not that freedom of space to drive it because we close down gaps quickly, so we have to make people kick it out. That’s a lower-percentage shot when you do that.”

John Rhodes

“We don’t want the ball to come inside, whether it’s with the pass or with the dribble. So it’s two-fold. When the floor gets extended and there are ball screens, you have to be able to defend that. And we simply have to keep the ball from the inside. Because we have versatile guys, it’s not always a physical thing.”

“Every day it’s a process getting guys to understand you have to play closer to the ball than your man. Ideally, you want five people to be concentrating on guarding the ball. It’s easier said than done, but if you do that, it helps your defense. As opposed to being a help defensive team, we want to play in the gaps. We want to play inside-out, but we want to shrink the court and give you fewer options for where the ball can go. Whereas last year, it was just a matter of time before the ball found a man who was going to make the shot. That’s a terrible way to play defense, but that’s where we were.”

“If we weren’t scoring, we weren’t guarding. Now, our defense has motivated us and given us energy. We’re playing off of it. For coach Ferry’s style of play, it’s perfect.”

Darius Lewis

“Everything moving faster was one thing coach really wanted us to hone in on. You’ve got to be in two places at once and be able to make two plays in order to be good defensively. We’re kind of trying to do that.”

“It just grew. I don’t think there was a set time where everything clicked, but it kind of built and built and built. It has potential to get even better as the season goes along.”

“They’re a lot more uncomfortable. We played that zone last year, but this year, it almost seems like we’re forcing teams to take tough 2s. Last year, we really struggled in conversion and getting back.”


Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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Mon Valley lawyer to join race for Daley seat

Carroll lawyer Alan Benyak has thrown his hat into the ring for a soon-to-be-vacated seat in the 49th Legislative District.

Mr. Benyak, 52, is the first Democrat to announce his intention to seek the seat being vacated by state Rep. Peter J. Daley, D-California, who intends to retire this year after 17 terms in office.

The district includes portions...

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Dem field narrowing in AG's race

And then there were three. 

Veteran prosecutor Jack Stollsteimer, of Delaware County, dropped out of the state attorney general's race this morning, a move announced by fellow southeast Pennsylvania AG candidate Josh Shapiro.

In a release issued by the Shapiro campaign, Mr. Stollsteimer said that while he was grateful for the support he'd...

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Empty Netter Assists - Rust always confident - 01-20-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-Even a speech impediment does little to deter the confidence of right winger Bryan Rust (above).

-What changes with the Penguins' faceoffs on the penalty kill while center Nick Bonino is injured?

-The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are planning on using enforcer Tom Sestito as a net-front presence on the power play.

-Happy 41st birthday to former Penguins defenseman the great Dick Tarnstrom. A free agent signing in the 2002 offseason, Tarnstrom spent parts of three seasons with the Penguins. In 2002-03, he appeared in 61 games and scored 41 points. He made some history during 2003-04 by becoming the only defenseman in franchise history to lead the club after he scored 52 points in 80 games. Following the 2004-05 lockout, Tarnstrom appeared in 33 games and scored 10 points for the Penguins in 2005-06 before being traded to the Oilers in exchange for defenseman Corey Cross and left winger Jani Rita. He announced his retirement last week. In 174 games with the Penguins, Tarnstrom scored 103 points, 82nd-most in franchise history and the most among by Swedish-born player in Penguins history.

-Happy 37th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Josef Melichar. A third-round pick in 1997, Melichar spent parts of six seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 2000-01, he appeared in 18 games and recorded two assists. He followed that up in 2001-02 by seeing action in 60 games and recording three assists. Injuries limited him to eight games and no points in 2002-03. He rebounded in 2003-04 by playing in all 82 games and scoring eight points. Following the 2004-05 lockout, Melichar played in 72 games during 2005-06 and set a career-high with 15 points. In 2006-07, he saw action in 70 games and scored 12 points. He appeared in all five of the Penguins' postseason games that spring and failed to record a point. During the 2007 offseason, he joined the Lightning as a free agent. Melichar appeared in 310 regular season games for the Penguins and scored 40 points.

-After the Jump: The Blackhawks make history.

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