The Duke Blue Devils jumped out to a double-digit lead before setting themselves on cruise control in a 73-61 victory over the Albany Great Danes in the 2013 NCAA Tournament’s Round of 64.
Leading the Blue Devils were Mason Plumlee, who scored 23 points with eight rebounds and two steals, and Seth Curry, who added 26 points. The two seniors combined to shoot 19-25, ensuring they would wear the Duke uniform for at least one more day. Sophomore Quinn Cook also carried the team, dishing out 11 assists against just one turnover.
It wasn’t the most impressive of opening round victories, but, considering how much the competitive gap has closed between top-tier teams and mid-major conference champions in recent years, you learn to take any victory you can in the tournament and move on. Would I have loved to have seen Duke run Albany out of the building? Of course. They didn’t, but they are advancing and Albany isn’t, and that is all that really matters at this stage in the season.
Besides, some teams make a habit out of hanging around in games, especially teams that excel on the defensive end. Albany is one of these teams and there defensive pressure resulted in 11 Duke turnovers, all of which helped keep the Great Danes hanging around until the very end. The result never appeared to be in doubt, not even when Albany closed the gap to 56-64 at the four-minute mark, but the pesky purple-shirted Danes refused to allow Duke to run away with it. They gave the Blue Devils an intriguing, possibly eye-opening challenge Friday morning and, for that, I salute them. Man, the NCAA Tournament is a lot of fun.
The game appeared to be headed towards a blowout in the early stages, with Duke racing out to a 24-14 lead at the 9:27 mark, but the seemingly star-struck Albany squad bounced back, playing to a near-even score the rest of the way. Jacob Iati carried the load, scoring 15 points to go along with six assists and six rebounds. Freshman guard Peter Hooley (13), senior Mike Black (10) and sophomore Sam Rowley (10) all scored in double-figures, as well.
To the bullet points:
- Duke (28-5) advances to the Round of 32, where they’ll face the Creighton Bluejays (28-7). The Bluejays went down to the wire with Cincinnati, but a 27-point outburst from star Doug McDermott proved too much as Creighton prevailed, 67-63.
- If you were hoping to see Josh Hairston’s role reduced in favor of Amile Jefferson, a possibility when you consider how poor Hairston has been performing recently, today was a letdown. Hairston received 13 minutes, managing only two rebounds and a charge, while Jefferson received four, uneventful minutes. I will never understand this.
- Mason Plumlee drained three sky hooks over the course of the game and shot 9-11 overall. It was nice, seeing Mr. Plumlee back in his dominant form. Of course, Albany isn’t exactly known for their post-play, but he looked as confident as ever and he used a variety of moves to put the ball in the basket. The re-emergence of the former NPOY candidate would be unbelievably huge for the Blue Devils.
- I want to devote a bullet point to the commentating that went on during the contest. Len Elmore, who has become well-known amongst fans for his anti-Duke/UNC attitude, took the word ‘bias’ to a whole different level today. He wasn’t THAT bad for the first half of the game, but somewhere around the midpoint of the second half, he threw professionalism to the wind and began openly cheering for Albany. If Albany hit a big shot, he would cheer in excitement, only to let out a groan when Duke answered on the other end. When Albany hit a tough shot, he would applaud the player, only to call Plumlee’s sky hooks ‘lucky’. By the end, he was only interested in talking about A) a possible Albany comeback and B) how poor Duke had looked. During Albany’s last comeback attempt, he gave a subtle, “ohhh” when a Great Danes’ three-point attempt sailed long, but continuously attempted to rally the troops with remarks of ‘there is plenty of time left’ and ‘this one isn’t over yet’. I never remark upon the performances of commentators, but the biased nature of the broadcast was atrocious. Elmore is the anti-Vitale (who, for the record, I can’t stand, either).