It truly was a tale of two halves as Duke defeated Davidson, 67-50, to pick up their 13th win of the season and keep their record unblemished heading into ACC play.
The Blue Devils (13-0) outscored the Wildcats (7-6), 38-21, in the last 20 minutes of play after heading into the half with a 29-29 tie. Senior Ryan Kelly poured in a season-high 18 points for Duke off 5-for-8 shooting from the floor, 3-for-4 shooting from three-point land and 5-for-6 shooting from the charity stripe. The Blue Devils’ leading shot-blocker also chipped in a team-high seven rebounds and scored five points in Duke’s 12-0 run to start the second half that gave them a comfortable lead for much of the half.
Kelly, along with freshman Rasheed Sulaimon, was the guy Duke depended on for the first 20 minutes as the Blue Devils struggled to create shots for themselves and were plagued by early turnovers and sloppy play. Senior Mason Plumlee turned the ball over six times in the game and sophomore point guard Quinn Cook, who tallied just two assists, was unable to set his teammates up with easy buckets. Kelly knocked down multiple threes, was able to create for himself and ensured that Duke didn’t go into the half trailing.
Sulaimon’s ability to get to the rim also kept the Blue Devils afloat in the first half since he scored all eight of his points in the first 20 minutes and used Duke’s good spacing to attack the rim for point-blank buckets. He hit the glass too, chipping in seven rebounds.
Despite the help from guards like Sulaimon, Duke was out-rebounded, out-hustled and out-everything in the first half. Their inability to crash the boards defensively and challenge Davidson more in the paint led to the tie at the half. However, the Blue Devils came out with more energy and intensity in the second half as they out-rebounded Davidson and stepped up their defensive pressure.
In addition to his career-high number of turnovers, Plumlee posted 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks as he struggled to score due to Davidson’s double teams. The Wildcats limited Plumlee in getting up shots from both the floor and free throw line and didn’t let him move the ball as well as you typically see out of him. Plumlee carried Duke in the first half though in their defensive and rebounding efforts.
Just one game after recording a career-high 31 points, Seth Curry shot poorly from the field with his 3-for-11 mark that left him with just six points. He was one of three Duke players who accumulated four fouls (to go along with Plumlee and Josh Hairston) and was never able to get into a rhythm on the offensive end. On the other hand, Cook, who didn’t do as good of a job as usual in creating scoring opportunities for his teammates, tallied 15 points off 6-for-9 shooting. Tyler Thornton also provided nice minutes off the bench with 10 points in 23 minutes of action.
The Blue Devils begin conference play Saturday at noon as they take on Wake Forest (7-5) on ESPNU. The Deamon Deacon have gotten off to a slow start this season after getting blown out by Iona (7-6) and falling to Richmond (10-5).