The dictionary defines “turnover” as “a loss of possession of the ball to the opposing team.”
That’s not the only definition, of course. We have others concerning finances, employee retention and small pies, among other things.
But we’ll stick with basketball. A turnover can be a great thing or a terrible thing, depending on which side of the turnover one sits.
Duke freshman guard Jeremy Roach discussed turnovers following Duke’s 85-71 win over Syracuse Monday night.
“That’s been an emphasis all season, just not turning the ball over. That’s kind of hurt us all season, just turning the ball over, but these last four games, we’ve just been doing everything right and taking care of the ball. And that leads to great shots and no turnovers or fast breaks on the other end.”
Roach was coming off a convincing win, which may have distorted his viewpoint a bit. Duke turned it over 14 times, with Roach and his backcourt classmate D.J. Steward accounting for three each.
That’s acceptable but hardly exceptional.
For exceptional we’ll have to look to senior Jordan Goldwire.
This would be the same Jordan Goldwire who leads the ACC in assists-to-turnover ratio. For every turnover Goldwire has committed, he has notched 2.77 assists. If he were to continue at this pace, his 2021 season would rank seventh best in Duke history.
Goldwire is seventh in the ACC in assists at 3.8 per game and second in steals at 2.5 per game.
The latter is on track to be the third-best in school history.
Goldwire says his ball-security skills come naturally.
“For me personally, I’ve never been a guy who has turned the ball over a bunch,” Goldwire told the media Thursday, “so I think it’s something that comes naturally, honestly. I’m just trying to make smart plays and not trying to overdo things.”
Can he use his experience to impart that ability to his younger teammates?
“I think it’s helping the young guys with whatever they need, whether it’s something offensively or defensively. . . . We’ve been turning the ball over less. I think that comes from everybody trying to be more cautious and make the best decisions for the team.”
Duke is going to have to make good decisions Saturday against Louisville. The Cardinals edged Duke 70-65 earlier in the season in Louisville and Duke’s 15 turnovers didn’t help the Blue Devils effort. Of course, Jalen Johnson had six of those so perhaps having Goldwire, Roach and Steward as the primary ball-handlers will pay dividends.
Doing a better job on Louisville guard Carlik Jones would also pay dividends. Jones dominated Duke down the stretch and scored 24 points, with five assists.
But Mark Williams didn’t see a single second in that game and Goldwire argues that Williams’ emergence changes the dynamic.
“Obviously, we’re not the same team that we were when we played Louisville. Just taking everything that we’ve been doing these last couple games and trying to build on it, and just know that you’re not alone out there guarding. Your teammates have got to have your back and it’s going to be a team effort. He’s obviously a great player. They’ve got another guard, David Johnson, that we’re going to have to contain too, so it’s going to be a team effort to stop those two guys and we’ve got to do anything that it takes to get that win.”
Goldwire is a senior and this will be Duke’s last home game of the season. But Goldwire could come back next season due to the Covid-19-specific extra year of eligibility and get a real Senior Day sendoff. As he has all season Goldwire says he’s aware that there’s a decision to be made but he’s too busy preparing for the next game to think too much about it now.
If it is the end, Goldwire says it was well worth it.
“I’m very happy and excited with the way my time here at Duke has went. It’s a place that not a lot of people get the opportunity to go, and I’m just grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to play here and play for such a good coach and coaching staff and in front of the fans. I’ve loved every minute of it.”