Friday, January 13, 2012

Plumlees were critical to Duke's win

DURHAM -- A few final thoughts and observations after Duke’s 61-58 college basketball victory over Virginia late Thursday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium:

1. The Plumlee brothers were critical in Duke’s win

After Virginia’s Mike Scott dominated the Blue Devils in the first half, Duke switched its defense and put Miles and Mason Plumlee on the Cavs’ forward. Both brothers tried to put a body on Scott at all times, and the result was that Scott only had seven points in the second half.

“The Plumlees, I thought, were the key to the game,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Their physicality and then our defense – we played much better defense on Scott in the second half. That was both Mason and Miles.”

On the offensive end, Mason set the tone for the second half when Duke fed him the ball down on the blocks on its first play after halftime. Plumlee scored, and the Blue Devils comeback was underway.

Mason ended up leading the Blue Devils with 12 points, making five of six shots from the floor.

“We ran different sets in the second half that worked much better,” Krzyzewski said. “They had all of our ball screen stuff handled. We went to a couple things that got us better movement. All of the sudden, the post was moved and there was something there.”

The fact Mason asserted himself so definitively on the offensive end was notable because of his struggles from the free-throw line. Mason made only two of his 10 attempts, and it would have been easy for him to shy away from the ball to avoid any embarrassing moments from the line.

“Mason was unbelievable in that second half,” Krzyzewski said. “His verve, his resolve to go to the basket. I know he missed free throws, but he was such a key guy for us.”

2. Duke’s PG rotation is not set in stone

After nearly a month of Tyler Thornton and Quinn Cook handling the responsibilities at point guard, Duke reverted back to its November approach, with Seth Curry handling the job for long stretches of Thursday’s win.

Thornton played some and had a key role in the Blue Devils’ 7-0 run that changed the game’s complexion in the second half. Thornton had a driving layup and also found Miles Plumlee for a transition dunk that gave Duke a 45-38 advantage. After Virginia had led for almost all of the first half, that seemed like an especially big lead.

After a strong previous three weeks, Cook spent most of the second half on the bench after an ineffective 12 minutes. That doesn’t mean he won’t be starting for the third straight time when Duke travels to Clemson on Sunday, but it was a bit of a road bump for the freshman.

Either way, expect more flexibility from the Blue Devils as the season progresses.

“I don’t think you can do just one thing with our team,” Krzyzewski said. “We made a switch because they made a switch. They had (Jontel) Evans on Austin (Rivers), so that put (Sammy) Zeglinski on Seth. Well, then Seth can play the point. And that gave us the better offensive team against them than we would have had the other way.”

The large takeaway from the above two points that is Duke’s success is more dependent on matchups than in recent years. Scott was killing the Blue Devils until Duke put the Plumlees on him. Curry can play the point when if he’s going against a less athletic player. And, as Temple showed, Duke has trouble defending athletic perimeter or wing players.

3. Mike Scott could challenge for the ACC player of the year

UNC’s Harrison Barnes could have something to say about that, of course. But the Virginia forward looked mighty impressive in the first half, hitting a variety of jumpers, fadeaways and shots in the lane. He also had a number of passes that set up teammates – Krzyzewski thought he was responsible for two-thirds of the Cavaliers’ points before halftime in one way or another.

It got to the point that the Duke students – with the students back from holiday break, last night’s Cameron crowd seemed especially energized – were pleading with Scott to stop shooting.

The Plumlee brothers did a good job on him in the second half, but Scott was still the best player on the court.

-- Jack Daly


Justin said...

Interesting website name for a post about Plumlee. Did you see the video of him where his head was near the rim?

Anonymous said...

Go Duke.

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