Following Wednesday night’s game against Davidson, Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke of how he hoped the team’s tough non-conference schedule would help prepare them for ACC play. With an 80-62 victory against Wake Forest Saturday to open the conference slate, the Blue Devils took the first step to fulfilling their head coach’s hopes.
Duke (14-0, 1-0 in the ACC) turned to its 3-point shooting early on and never looked back, as seniors Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry posted matching 22-point performances with a combined 7-for-11 showing from beyond the arc.
Although the Blue Devils have typically played better in the second half this season, the team made 9-of-16 3-pointers before halftime, and Kelly put in 17 of his 22 points.
“When you have a guy that hot, you just have to keep feeding him,” Mason Plumlee said.
Quinn Cook’s feeds were outstanding throughout the afternoon, as he recorded a career-high 14 assists. Behind Cook’s outstanding distribution, the Blue Devils fed not only Kelly but five different Duke scorers. All 12 of Duke’s first-half field goals were assisted, with seven of those helpers coming from Cook.
At the end of the game, Duke also managed to only turn the ball over six times, opposed to the Demon Deacons 19 turnovers.
“We were fortunate enough to hit some shots,” Cook said. “Seth got going, Ryan got going. They make my job so easy. It’s easy to give them the ball and they knock down shots.”
Cook’s performance was unusual in that he missed all 11 of his field goal attempts, failing to score a point despite falling just two assists short of Bobby Hurley’s single-game Duke record in that category.
“You’re pressuring the ball, you’re passing, you’re running a team and by the time you get to your shot, you miss that little bit of confidence you need to knock it down,” Krzyzewski said. “I was proud of him, that he didn’t let the shooting take away from his defense and play-making responsibilities.”
The Demon Deacons (7-6, 0-1) entered the contest as a team struggling to put up big numbers, having broken 80 points just once in 12 games. Prior to their matchup against the Blue Devils, the Demon Deacons had only faced one ranked team, falling by six to then-No. 23 Connecticut.
Wake Forest has just two players averaging double-digit points this season, and that duo represents two-thirds of the Demon Deacons’ contingent of upperclassmen. Head coach Jeff Bzdelik brought in a seven-man recruiting class and has relied heavily on sophomores and freshman to step into significant roles.
Bzdelik’s pair of reliable scorers, junior Travis McKie and senior C.J. Harris, posted 22 and 19 points, respectively. They were the only two Demon Deacons in double digits.
Despite a lack of interior size, Wake Forest did not allow Mason Plumlee to hurt them in the post, especially in the first half. Plumlee struggled for the majority of the opening half, recording just two points and missing his only two free-throw attempts. Plumlee was consistently denied the baseline, forcing him to put up shots fading away from the basket.
Wake Forest came out of halftime looking to speed up the tempo, but their efforts appeared to backfire. Duke played well in transition to post a 19-6 run out of the gate, cementing its lead for the rest of the game.
Duke might have kept piling on its lead behind a red-hot Kelly, but the senior forward picked up his fourth and fifth fouls and was forced to watch his team finish the game from the bench. He only played 18 minutes, but managed to score 22 points and grab three rebounds.
“Maybe if he wasn’t in foul trouble, he would’ve gone off for 35 or more,” Plumlee said. “He was really playing aggressive, he was knocking down shots, then he was attacking the basket also.”
After going 1-for-3 from the field in the opening half, Plumlee turned his game around and knocked down 4-of-5 shot attempts to finish with 13 points. He also managed to notch his ACC-leading ninth double-double of the season after grabbing 12 rebounds.
“In the second half, [Mason Plumlee] played through physicality,” Krzyzewski said. “I didn’t think he did that in the first half.”
Mason was not the only Plumlee to see significant time on the floor Saturday. His younger brother Marshall entered the game several times, tallying a career-high seven minutes. During his time on the court, Marshall recorded his first career points on a fast-break layup.
“It’s a testament to my teammates’ confidence in me,” Marshall said. “It’s fun when be out there and play together and win like that together.”