After 90 consecutive home wins against nonconference teams, Duke fans expected Monday night’s game against UNC-Greensboro (2-10) at Cameron Indoor Stadium to be another blowout. Although a rocky start nearly derailed their winning streak, the No. 7 Blue Devils (10-1) ultimately bested the Spartans 90-63.
The first half was a story of missed opportunities for Duke. The Blue Devils had not played since defeating Washington Dec. 20, and the break for final examinations led to a sluggish start for the Duke squad. The Blue Devil defense even looked “brain dead” in the words of head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
The Blue Devils shot 48 percent from the field and 14-of-24 from the foul line, and also turned the ball over 11 times in the opening half. UNC-Greensboro came out ready to play, claiming an early lead that was not fully relinquished until only six minutes remained in the opening twenty minutes.
The Spartan defense put pressure on junior Mason Plumlee and held him to just five points before the halftime break. Freshman Austin Rivers led the team with 12 points in the half to keep Duke in the game.
“We talk about it all the time. You’ve got to be really ready, and I don’t think we were as ready as we needed to be,” Krzyzewski said. “And then we got ready.”
Krzyzewski returned his squad to the court with six minutes remaining in halftime. Whatever he had to say in the locker room was short and to the point—but it worked.
“Coach K was just very angry in the locker room [at halftime], as he should’ve been,” Rivers said. “And our whole thing before we went out in the second half was we don’t want to go on a six-day break thinking about a loss or a bad win.”
In the second half, the Blue Devils came out with a statement, as junior Seth Curry scored within 15 seconds of resumed play. The offense was sparked by freshman Quinn Cook, who scored a career-high 14 points, all in the second half. He was six-for-six from the field in the final half and added 11 points to the 29-8 run that cemented the Blue Devil victory. Four other Duke players recorded double-digit points on the night—Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Rivers and Andre Dawkins.
The Spartan defense could no longer afford to yield outside shots, leaving Plumlee open in the paint. This allowed Plumlee to record his fifth double-double of the season, with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
The Blue Devils stepped up their defense in the second half as well. The Plumlee brothers combined for 26 rebounds, helping the team to outrebound the Spartans 46-27. Despite 18 turnovers through the game, Duke did not allow UNC-Greensboro any opportunities to come back in the second half.
The Blue Devils will take another break through the holidays until returning to Cameron Indoor Stadium Dec. 30 against Western Michigan.
“I think they did well academically and they have certainly done well basketball-wise,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s a good time to take a break and then come back and get strong again.”
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