UPDATE: Turns out Duke did, in fact, avoid the No. 1 rank! The voters kept Indiana at the top of the polls, with Duke right behind them at No. 2. Woo! No curse for the Blue Devils!
The Duke Blue Devils, hell-bent on avoiding being the next team to receive the cursed No. 1 rank in the polls, put forth their best effort to steer clear of becoming the next dead man walking without doing any serious damage, pulling out a hideous 62-61 victory over Boston College.
Duke, by all means, probably should’ve lost this game. They were down 61-56 with 2:15 to go in the game and they’d yet to show anything resembling a rhythm on offense. It didn’t look completely hopeless, but I was already mentally prepared to write about how Duke was the latest top-five team to drop a contest this week.
Then, almost miraculously, Duke showed a little fight. It wasn’t much fight. You know those little, loud, and annoying dogs that sit behind a fence all day and bark at every little thing that passes by? If you ever happen to open the fence that they pretend is containing all their ferociousness, they’ll come out with this thirty second span of anger, running after every thing that moves. Of course, this only lasts for thirty seconds before they walk away with their tail between their legs.
This is sort of how Duke was: going on a one-minute, all-out attack before running off the court, thanking the Basketball Gods they escaped with their lives.
It all started with a Quinn Cook three, one of just three shots he hit all game, that brought them back within two at 59-61. They followed that up with a strong defensive effort, forcing Boston College into a couple tough looks before Mason Plumlee drew a foul and headed to the free throw line with a chance to tie it up. Plumlee, armed with a vastly-improved free-throw game, knocked down both of the shots, tying it all up at 61-61.
Then, Duke went back to playing like they had all game long: sloppy, lazy, and a little scary.
With just thirty seconds left in the game, the Blue Devils left freshman sharp-shooter Joe Rahon wide-open for a corner three. Lucky for them, the freshman appeared to be rattled the entire game, and Rahon missed the shot badly. Also lucky for them, the ball took a strange bounce into the arms of Plumlee, who was immediately fouled by Boston College Forward Eddie Odio.
It was an uncomfortable position for Blue Devils fans. While Plumlee has improved dramatically at the line, he is still prone to the occasional empty trip and, considering how poorly the game had gone, there seemed like no time that made more sense for him to miss both free throws than right at this moment.
The first one missed. Duke Nation sighed.
Now, barring the unlikely series of events where Plumlee missed the second free throw and Duke grabbed the offensive rebound, Boston College was in position to win the game on the final possession with something as simple as a layup. In the absolute best case scenario, we were all in for a minor heart attack in the final twenty seconds.
The second free throw is good.
I’ve observed this zany college basketball season and I’ve seen the magic of conference play. If a lesser team is in a position to win at the end of a game, it always feels like the lesser team wins. The upset felt inevitable to me.
Olivier Hanlan must be quite a nice guy, though, because he refused to break my heart. Handling the ball in the last possession of the game, Hanlan didn’t even make a move towards the basket until there was less than ten seconds remaining, an inexcusable move when you are only down by a single point. The late start led to a tough jumper for Hanlan, which led to a miss for Hanlan, which led to a scramble for Hanlan and friends, which led to Ryan Anderson getting crushed by a Duke player, which led to time expiring.
The second the clock struck 0:00, Duke ran the hell out of Chesnut Hill, tail between their legs and all. They hadn’t won because they outperformed the Eagles. No, they won because they simply have more talent and experience for the time being.
I hate to spend so much of a game recap on a total of 2:15 of gametime, but the rest of the game was thoroughly uninteresting. Both teams struggled in every asset of the game, putting together 35 or so minutes of hideous, inconsistent, and boring basketball.
The game was so boring that the most exciting player was Eddie Odio, a guy who entered the game averaging 3.0ppg and 2.7rpg. Odio had two dunks in the game: the first being a slightly overrated dunk ‘on’ Plumlee (Plumlee was drawn out of position. The fact that he even came close to blocking the dunk was a miracle in itself) and the second being a beautifully executed alley-oop off an inbounds pass.
-Mason Plumlee gets Ball Durham’s player of the game. The Senior collected 19 points, 10 rebounds, and shot 7-10 from the free-throw line, including a 3-4 performance from the stripe in the final minute of the game. Plumlee has shown the ability to put this team on his back when they need him most, and that excites me.
-Seth Curry is probably the only other Blue Devil worth mentioning. The other Senior scored 18 points, overcoming a slow start in the process.
-In the second half, Curry, combined with his brother, Stephen Curry, passed Ben and Tyler Hansbrough as the highest-scoring brother-combo of all-time. With plenty of season left, I’m sure Curry will do his best to put that record as out of reach as possible.
-Quinn Cook gets a small shout-out for hitting two clutch three-pointers down the stretch. Outside of that, he played a miserable game, shooting 3-11 and looking careless with the ball all game. He was fairly solid on defense, however.
-With the win, Duke has likely become the favorite to be the No. 1 ranked team in the country next week. No one this season has been able to hold onto the spot very long, and lately it has become somewhat of a curse, with Michigan, Duke, Indiana and Louisville all failing to hold onto the top spot for longer than a week. Duke was the only top-five team that managed to get through this week without a loss, but Indiana and Miami both could make legitimate claims for the top spot. My thoughts: give it to them. I don’t want that stupid rank.
-Apparently Josh Hairston thinks he is a shooter now. Someone needs to put a stop to that.
-Duke improves to 21-2 overall and 8-2 in the ACC with the win, good enough for second place. Boston College fell to 10-13 overall and 2-8 in ACC play, placing them in a tie with Virginia Tech for dead last in the conference. Yeah, Duke was a bounce or two away from losing to the ACC’s last place team.
-Duke’s next game is on Wednesday against North Carolina in Durham. Bring. It. On.