But what made the #2 Blue Devils’ (8-0) win so impressive wasn’t their wire-to-wire dominance, Mason Plumlee’s fifth double-double in eight games (18 points, 11 rebounds) or Alex Murphy‘s first career points (10 to be exact), it was their pressure defense for all 40 minutes, dominance in winning the 50-50 balls, Plumlee (and all bigs for that matter) running the floor every play and Amile Jefferson, among others, attacking the offensive glass up 40 points late in the second half.
That kind of effort and energy even in practically meaningless games against less talented squads is what makes a team special. Heart isn’t something that can be taught, it’s something that players just have to have. And this team has it.
It was an all-around great win for Duke as they held Delaware (2-6) to under 28% shooting from the floor. Quinn Cook spearheaded the Blue Devils’ defensive intensity and set the tone early in the game for all of his teammates to follow. Cook chipped in eight points, three assists and just one turnover in 27 minutes.
Plumlee, who posted his fourth double-double in five games, dominated in every aspect as he amassed three blocks and two steals, in addition to his 67% field goal percentage. Plumlee took double-digit free throw attempts for the second straight game, although he shot just 6-for-10 from the charity stripe. Ryan Kelly tied Plumlee’s team-high 18 points off a variety of shots from buckets around the rim to 17-footers and three-pointers. Kelly was an efficient 8-for-13 from the floor and was a scoring threat from all over the court.
Freshman star Rasheed Sulaimon put up another impressive performance between his 14 points, six assists and four rebounds. He made a couple of nice passes in transition that led to easy buckets and finished beautifully around the rim. Murphy was one of the beneficiaries of Sulaimon’s good passing, as he tallied his first two points in a Duke uniform off a Sulaimon pass in the paint that led to a lay-up.
Murphy went on to score eight more points in addition to posting seven total rebounds. He has a nice combination of size and skill that could be useful off the bench and his season-high playing time and improved confidence does nothing to hurt the prospects of that. Jefferson also put together a nice performance with 12 points and six rebounds in 21 minutes.
Part of the reason Murphy played 21 minutes is because Seth Curry didn’t even dress after he tweaked his ankle against Ohio State in Wednesday’s 73-68 victory. Since Curry hasn’t been practicing much because of his season-long injury, it makes a lot of sense to sit him against a team like Delaware. Curry needs as much rest as he can get to limit the potential of his injury getting worse so he’ll be as ready as possible come March.
Tyler Thornton pieced together a great game as well as dished out a career-high 10 assists in addition to six rebounds and three steals. He, along with Cook, also played aggressive defense and made life hard on Delaware’s guards. Even senior walk-on Todd Zafirovski got in the box score after he scored his first two career points with a couple of minutes left in the game.
For Duke fans, there isn’t much to complain about unless you really want to nitpick and point out Plumlee’s 6-of-10 free throw shooting, Thornton’s three turnovers or Sulaimon’s 1-for-4 mark from three-point land. That’s how good the Blue Devils looked (keep in mind the opponent, though).
Duke will again be in action next Saturday as they take on Temple (5-0) at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The neutral court game will be televised on ESPN at 3:15 (EST).