Duke shook off first half sluggishness and lack of focus to put together a late first half run (18-4) and an early second half run (29-8) and eventually put away the UNC-G Spartans. Duke withstood a gutty performance by the Spartans who kept this game close for most of the first half, but what aided that performance was the sloppy, lackluster play of the Devils. Dukes double digit first half turnovers led to fast break opportunites for UNCG and kept Duke out of rhythm and out of sorts.
Whether it was the long layoff or mental fatigue, the Devils for most of the first half was not able to match the intensity level of the Spartans. Duke was also hard pressed to find an answer at the point guard spot. Seth Curry, as of late, has not played his best basketball. He did manage 9 points but did so on 2 of 6 shooting and only 1 of from 3 point range. He finished with 4 turnovers and 0 assists in the game. Tyler Thornton didn’t fair much better scoring 3 points and managing 1 assist and 1 turnover in 16 minutes of play.
Without the play of Mason Plumlee (15pts, 13rbs) and Austin Rivers (14pts) the Devils might have been looking at aÂ halftime deficit rather than a lead. Mason asserted his dominance on the glass and in the paint offensively in the first half despite his poor foul shooting (3-8). He stayed aggressive and scored with ease against UNC-G. Austin Rivers also had little trouble against the Spartans weaving his way into the lane, getting fouled and connecting on 2 big 3 pointers in the game to spur the Duke runs.
There will be a lot to look at film wise in this game, mostly on defense, mostly correctable. Giving up easy transition baskets, slow rotations and being out of position was the Achilles heel of Duke this night. The Devil is in the details but the Blue Devils left the details in the locker room in the first half, but shored it up in the second.
And while there were other notable performances by Dukies in this game including Miles Plumlee with 13 rebounds, Andre Dawkins with 11 points and Ryan Kelly with 10, what Blue Devils fans are beaming and smiling about is the play of Quinn Cook, who after an 0 for 1 start in the first half came out in the second half and dominated. Cook went 6-6 in the second half and was 2-3 from the 3 point arc. Cook was able to knife through the defense, finish on the break and hit open looks, he was also Dukes best ball-handler. Cook showed the difference between being a point guard and just a guard. Granted this game was not against UNC-Chapel Hill or Florida State but the confidence it must instill in Cook to play that well and have the coaching staff’s seal of approval has to be a boost and hopefully will pay some dividends in come ACC season.