After falling to N.C. State and losing their first game of the season earlier in the year, you knew Duke would come out firing on all cylinders Feb. 7 in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
But no one expected the Blue Devils (20-2, 7-2) to explode for 58 points in the first half as they held off a late N.C. State (16-7, 5-5) run to capture a 98-85 victory.
Mason Plumlee poured in a game-high 30 points and chipped in a game-high nine rebounds as Duke knocked down 10 three-pointers in the first half to race out to a 58-37 lead halfway through the game. Quinn Cook, Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon all shot well from beyond the arc throughout the first 20 minutes of the game and showed range, the ability to move without the ball and their ability work to create their own shot. The Blue Devils, who didn’t make a triple at all in the second half, shot 10-for-17 from beyond the arc in the first half.
Curry led Duke’s scoring punch in the first 20 minutes as he scored 18 of his 26 points in the first half off 4-for-9 shooting from three-point land. He did what he has done all season with his ability to maneuver around screens and create separation from his defender to get clean looks from the basket. Although he cooled down and misses all three of his triples that he attempted in the final 20 minutes of the game, he did shoot 10-for-12 from the charity stripe as Duke converted 32 of their 41 free throw attempts.
Plumlee did it all for the Blue Devils whether it was on offense or defense between his 9-for-11 mark from the field or his key block at the end of the game to halt an N.C. State run that threatened Duke’s lead with less than a minute left. His efficiency was extremely impressive and he finished very well around the basket. Plumlee also shot 12-for-16 from the charity stripe and was the only player who played all 40 minutes.
Cook also had both a very good — and efficient — game. The sophomore floor general posted 21 points, four assists and four rebounds while turning the ball over just two times. He shot 6-for-8 from the floor, including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, and recorded a 5-for-6 mark from the charity stripe. Cook played with a high IQ and simply got Curry and Plumlee the ball where and when they needed it.
Sulaimon rounded out Duke’s group of double-digit scorers as he chipped in 11 points and five rebounds. He found open spots in transition to spot up and shot 3-for-8 from the field. Still filling in for Ryan Kelly, Amile Jefferson recorded four points and five rebounds in 25 minutes.
Despite the win, Duke’s near-collapse at the end of the game is a reasonable cause for concern. Between giving up easy buckets, turning the ball over and committing offensive fouls, the Blue Devils looked like they may lose their lead as the clock wound down. Highlighted by a sequence of three straight Duke turnovers, it’s clear that they needed to be more composed in crunch time.
Hoping to build on their four-game win streak, the Blue Devils take on Boston College (10-12, 2-7) next as they travel to Massachusetts Sunday at 6pm. They’ll play the Eagles, one of the worst teams in the ACC, on ESPNU.