Look out Ryan Kelly. Seth Curry is vying for your spot as the third option in Duke’s offense.
After shooting a dismal 2-for-14 from 3-point range over the last four games, Curry emerged from his shooting slump in a big way Thursday night. The redshirt sophomore guard finished the game with his Duke career-high 20 points, draining 5-for-7 3-pointers.
While Curry’s offensive performance was impressive, his defensive effort early set the tone against Boston College. Three minutes and 45 seconds into the first half, Curry poked the ball loose from the Eagles’ ball handler, dove to the floor and acrobatically found a streaking Ryan Kelly for an authoritative jam. The Cameron Crazies erupted and Duke extended its early lead to 9-3.
“We didn’t want to let them get comfortable,” Curry said. “They have an offense where they like to get in a rhythm and make passes. As soon as they crossed half court we wanted to pick them up and try to get in the passing lanes.”
After recent games, Krzyzewski has applauded Curry’s improved defensive play. With the absence of freshman Kyrie Irving, the redshirt sophomore has had to step up his on-ball defensive duties. Unfortunately, his defensive focus seemed to detract from his prodigious shooting ability. But not tonight.
“Even though he hasn’t shot the ball well until tonight in the ACC, his play has gotten better,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s moved his feet better. He’s guarded the ball and brought the ball up. We’ve seen him grow and the thing you expect from him is to shoot, but he wasn’t doing that. [But tonight] Seth had a terrific game.”
Curry’s offensive performance got the attention of not only Krzyzewski, but Boston College head coach Steve Donahue as well. In the waning minutes of the first half, Curry drew a foul against Eagles’ star Reggie Jackson as he attempted a 3-point shot from the right wing, sending Donahue into a conniption as he slammed his clipboard on Coach K Court. After a media timeout, Curry smoothly sank his three free throws, further adding to the coach’s fury.
But Curry’s most important contribution came at the 14-minute mark in the second half. Moments after senior Nolan Smith used a crafty behind-the-back move to find Mason Plumlee for a thunderous jam, Curry received a long outlet pass from Plumlee, set his feet and drained a deep 3-pointer from the right wing. The long bomb pushed Duke’s lead to 13, and the Blue Devils never looked back.
“Seth was hot,” Krzyzewski said. “The three he hit in transition off an outlet pass.... [He] caught it and just fired it. Both teams were tired at that point and it gave us a really big lift.”
Curry’s renewed offensive prowess, however, did not come without hard work over the past week. Realizing that it cannot afford to rely solely on senior captains Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, Duke has looked to find ways to improve the production of its role players.
“In previous games we were not really ready to shoot,” Curry said. “We really worked on being ready and moving without the ball. I was able to get off my shot quicker because of our [preparation].”
With tonight’s breakthrough performance, fans should look for Curry to have an increased role in the Blue Devils’ offense henceforth.
Although Kelly had his third straight double-digit scoring game, Curry could have an even bigger role going forward as fellow guard Andre Dawkins’s performance has dropped off significantly over the past two games.
Averaging 10.9 points per game and 25.1 minutes per game coming into last night, Dawkins played only 10 minutes against the Eagles, contributing no points on an 0-for-1 shooting night.
Whether or not Dawkins steps up his play, Curry remains determined to shoulder a greater load of the Duke offense.
“We’ve got to have pride coming into the game,” Curry said. “At times we try to put it all on Nolan and Kyle. But we’re not going to be a great team if we don’t have five guys who can put points on the board. We really have to work on getting involved and being ready to shoot.”
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.