When you play a weak non-conference team, you don’t want to just win, you want to see improvement and development that will help you in your tougher games at the end of the season.
And that’s exactly what you saw out of #9 Duke (3-0) as they beat Florida Gulf Coast (2-2), 88-67. From Rasheed Sulaimon‘s scoring display to Mason Plumlee‘s free throw shooting and Quinn Cook‘s assist total, Blue Devil fans should be very happy with what they saw Sunday night.
Sulaimon, who poured in 19 points, showed his ability to score in a variety of ways whether it was his three three-pointers he hit in the first half, his perfect 6-for-6 mark at the charity stripe or his success in getting to the basket and creating his own shot. The freshman guard gives Duke another guy that can score on his own, which will be critical since only Seth Curry and Plumlee have proven they can do that so far.
Although he also tallied five turnovers, Cook’s nine assists reflects how well he was able to set up his teammates. Cook, who also recorded eight points and four rebounds, is still in a timeshare with Tyler Thornton at the point guard position, although Cook has the higher ceiling and is the guy the Blue Devils will need to lean on if they want to make a run in late March.
While Mason Plumlee’s career-high 28 points and nine rebounds is something to marvel at, his 10-for-11 mark from the free throw line is something Duke fans should be very happy about. He’s a career 50% shooter from the line and in tight games, you can’t leave several points at the charity stripe, especially from one player. Plumlee also shot an impressive 9-for-11 from the field and he did a great job of using the pump fake under the basket to open up easy lay-ups for himself.
However, despite the easy victory, Duke still had a couple of causes for concern.
One number that immediately jumps out at you in the box score is 18 turnovers, something they clearly can’t afford to sustain. Cook certainly had his hand in that since he made some bad decisions with the ball but three other players (Plumlee, Sulaimon and Thornton) also turned the ball over at least three times.
The Blue Devils also had difficulty preventing Florida Gulf Coast from penetrating the lane early in the game, although it later became more of a non-issue since Florida Gulf Coast relied more on three-pointers to catch-up and they kept turning the ball over. Duke needs to drastically improve what they did on the defensive end from a year ago and protect the paint.
The Blue Devils take on Minnesota (4-0) next in their opening game at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas Thanksgiving Day. Thursday’s match-up will be televised on AXS TV, formerly HDNet, as well as NBC Sports at 3:30 (EST).