The Duke Blue Devils, behind a strong 22-point performance from Ryan Kelly, raced past the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in their ACC-play opener, 80-62.
The game was littered with impressive performances from Duke players, with Seth Curry scoring 22, Mason Plumlee pulling in another double-double, and Quinn Cook overcoming a disastrous shooting day (0-12 from the field) to collect 14 assists. The Demon Deacons were led by F Travis McKie (22 points, 12 rebounds) and G CJ Harris (19 points, 5 assists).
The game was a refreshing change of pace from the last few games Duke has played, as Coach K’s squad raced out of the gates in the first half, burying the opposition in an early 41-30 deficit. Over their past four contests, the Blue Devils struggled to pull away from teams in the first half, but they appeared to be much sharper tonight, utilizing absurd three-point shooting and the carelessness of Wake Forest to get ahead.
Mason Plumlee had a nice bounce-back game after the disastrous effort he put up against Davidson earlier this week, scoring 13 points and collecting 12 rebounds. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for the senior forward, however, as Plumlee went 3-9 from the free-throw line, once again igniting concern that his free throw struggles are back after an impressive start to the season. Plumlee hasn’t shot better than 67% from the line since going 9-12 from the line against #4 Ohio State back on November 28th.
Quinn Cook had the most intriguing game, posting a stellar performance from a point guard standpoint with 14 assists and just 2 turnovers, all while enduring a disastrous shooting performance, going 0-14 from the field. I actually thoroughly enjoyed Cook’s performance, as he didn’t attempt to force his way out of the shooting slump, taking only favorable looks that just refused to drop. Meanwhile, he still managed to have a significantly positive effect on the game by setting up teammates for numerous open looks. Cook turned what could have been a disastrous performance into a pretty darn good one, salvaging a ton of plays from the fire. Well done today, Mr. Cook.
Curry and Kelly were the biggest stories of the day, though, as the two seniors carried the scoring load all game for the Blue Devils. The two combined for 44 points on 14-24 shooting, including 8-14 from beyond the arc. In case anyone forgot how dangerous of a scorer Kelly can be, he is doing everything to remind them these past couple games. Curry, meanwhile, continues his season of inconsistency, this time with a wonderful performance. The redshirt senior was coming off a disappointing 3-11 shooting performance against Davidson.
Today’s game a was a lot of fun. It was the kind of win the Blue Devils needed to open ACC play and it was certainly the type of performance Coach K hasn’t seen from his team in a good three weeks. Was it actually the long layoffs between games that was messing this team up? It is starting to appear so, but we’ll know a lot more on Tuesday, when the Blue Devils take on an 8-4 Clemson team, the same one that nearly shocked #3 Arizona back in December.