What started out as a typical game for this Duke Blue Devils team also ended like a typical game for the No. 3 team in the country. After trailing for different parts of the first half Duke put on a clinic in the second, closing on a 20-2 run over the last 6:17 and earned an 85-57 win over Virginia Tech on senior night.
The Blue Devils seniors — Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry — went out with a bang as they combined to score 52 points on 16-for-33 shooting on their final night inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. Curry led the way with 20 points and five rebounds with Kelly’s 18 points and nine rebounds close behind.
Erick Green led the way for the visitors, hitting his season average right on the nose by pouring in 25 points on an efficient 10-for-19 from the field. Green handled the Duke guards extremely well and got into the paint whenever he wanted to against Curry, Tyler Thornton and Rasheed Sulaimon.
Plumlee spent a good portion of the first half on the bench in foul trouble and Virginia Tech took advantage by scoring on layups and pull up jumpers in the lane. Green finished the first half with 13 points thanks to a late three that cut Duke’s lead to just two before a late free throw made it an 38-35 advantage headed into the locker room.
Duke was a different team after the break, both literally and figuratively. Sulaimon, who played about as poor a half as he has this season, started on the bench while Thornton came out to start, limiting Sulaimon to minutes late in the half after Curry headed to bench with the game effectively in hand.
Sulaimon, who seems to have hit a second freshman wall these past three games, finished with five points in the last few minutes and looked as though at least an ounce or two of confidence had returned. According to SCACCHoops’ plus/minus numbers from tonight, however, the Cook/Curry/Thornton/Kelly/Plumlee unit was an impressive +18 for the night and could become a go-to unit if Sulaimon can’t get his head on straight.
The figurative difference was palpable on Duke’s first defensive possession as the Blue Devils contested a Green shot and pulled in the rebound to cut into a margin that was in VT’s favor at the half. By game’s end Duke had taken a lead in the rebounding category and finished with a 36-29 advantage.
The extra possessions the Blue Devils gained from limiting the Hokies’ shots were not wasted either as Duke continued moving the ball on offense and finding the open man for easy baskets. Duke had nine assists on 17 made field goals in the second half, finishing with 17 assists on 30 made field goals for an impressive assist percentage of 56.7.
This was a great way to send off a great group of seniors but there are still a few more chapters to be written. Duke will face North Carolina on Saturday in Chapel Hill with a chance to finish off a great regular season with the best topping of all: a win at the Dean Dome.