Sunday’s game at Cameron Indoor Stadium got off to a slow start. Both Duke and Boston College were sloppy with the ball, committing a couple turnovers each, and players on both sides seemed to have trouble securing loose balls. After more than three minutes of play, the Blue Devils trailed the Eagles 5-3, but neither team really looked like it was winning.
Then Boston College forward Ryan Anderson reigned in pass at the block, gathered himself for a dunk, and was emphatically denied by Mason Plumlee, who met Anderson above the rim to notch his only block of the game. Rasheed Sulaimon grabbed the loose ball in the corner, and the Blue Devils quickly converted a layup on the other end of the court to tie the game at five. But from that point on, there was no ambiguity as to who had the upper hand on Coach K Court.
“I don’t think there are many teams in the country right now that could come into this building and beat Duke,” Eagles head coach Steve Donahue said. “They are just playing terrific basketball.”
After the slow start, No. 6 Duke (24-3, 11-3 in the ACC) used defensive pressure and some hot shooting to pull away from Boston College (12-15, 4-10 in the ACC) and turn in not just a win, but also a dominating performance. Led by freshman Sulaimon and Plumlee, the Blue Devils beat the Eagles 89-68 at Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday.
Sulaimon—in a continuation of the guard’s recent scoring streak—led the Blue Devils with 27 points, a career high for the freshman. In addition to a converting a bevy of mid-range jumpers and floaters, Sulaimon hit 3-of-5 3-point attempts. He is now averaging 18.3 points per game during the team’s last four contests.
“I’m just trusting in myself,” Sulaimon said of his recent play. “[I’m] being aggressive, taking my opportunities when I see them, trying not to force anything and just always trying to make the right play.”
Following Plumlee’s rejection, Duke went on a 12-0 run to go ahead 15-5—taking a lead that would never again be in danger. By halftime Duke had stretched the advantage to 51-27, allowing the team to coast in the second half before ending the day with a win.
“They had great intensity defensively after the first TV timeout and the rest of the half,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “In the second half, I thought we started the half real well, but when you get that lead you would like to have them play at that level defensively throughout, but we didn’t.”
Duke turned in an accurate shooting performance in the win, hitting 53.8 percent of its field goals and going 7-of-15 from behind the 3-point line. The team also finished well in traffic—converting five three-point plays in the first half alone. Krzyzewski singled out Sulaimon and fellow freshman Amile Jefferson—who also recorded a career-high with 14 points—for their ability to fight through contact and convert.
Mason Plumlee earned his 16th double-double of the year with 19 points and 15 boards and grabbed his 1,000th career rebound on defense early in the first half.
“Mason has been the most important player for any team in our league this year,” Krzyzewski said. “Mason has been the guy…. In the second half when we went to him he was like a battering ram—playing through getting fouled and kicking the ball out.”
Boston College was plagued by foul trouble throughout the first half. A product of Duke’s aggressive play, the Eagles found themselves in the bonus after just seven and a half minutes and finished the game with 25 fouls. They had no answer for Plumlee, who drew 10 fouls alone. He was able to capitalize, knocking down 11-of-15 free throws.
“We had matchups that where we felt like they couldn’t guard us, especially going to Mason down low,” Seth Curry said. “They had to do certain things when he got the ball in the paint—Mason always does a good job of getting us into the bonus early.”
In addition to Plumlee, Sulaimon and Jefferson, guards Quinn Cook and Seth Curry were also in double figures.
Facing an active Duke squad that at times employed a full-court press, Boston College committed 16 turnovers—including 13 in the first half—and rarely got an open look at the basket out of their half-court set.
“I felt like we could get in passing lanes and disrupt them and create turnovers,” Seth Curry said. “Once we did that, we got the crowd into the game and got open shots.”
Instead, the Eagles relied on second-chance opportunities and shots from beyond the arc for a large portion of their scoring. They finished the game with 11 second-chance points and a 5-of-13 effort from 3-point land.
Looking ahead, life without Ryan Kelly may soon come to an end. After the game he said that he will likely return either on senior night against Virginia Tech or in the season finale at North Carolina.