Eleven days is a long time to go without a game and it showed early in Duke's return to the court against Cornell.
"It was pretty obvious we weren't who we have been the whole season early in the first half," Seth Curry said. "We got our rhythm back in the second half and played with a lot more energy."
Once the rust wore off, the rout was on. Duke closed the first half on a roll and upped the ante after intermission, bludgeoning Cornell with a 32-4 run that spanned both halves. The final was 88-47 and it could have been worse.
Cornell is a mid-level Ivy League team, lacking in size and athleticism. But early on they did the things that we expect from Ivies-run their offense, block out, hit open shots.
And Duke let them. "They pushed the ball on us," Mike Krzyzewski said. "I didn't think we were ready defensively. I didn't think we had the emotion we needed to play defense."
Duke actually trailed at 12-8 after scoring the game's first four points. Under-sized but athletic Cornell power forward Shon Miller had a couple of emphatic dunks and Cornell scored in transition several times.
Rasheed Sulaimon jump-started a 7-0 surge and Duke never again trailed. It was last close at 32-28, with 3:44 left in the half.
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During this period, fans were treated-if that's the word-to a play that can be described as a Cameron crazy. Trailing 17-13, Cornell's Devin Cherry missed a foul shot. Mason Plumlee went for the unchallenged rebound and somehow the ball ended up in the Cornell basket; the points were given to the closest Cornell player, Eitan Chemerinski, who never actually touched the ball.
"That was not one of my brighter moments," Plumlee laughed, after the game. "You wonder if it still counts as two points for the other team. It's never happened to me before and I hope it never does again."
Plumlee's so good this season, he's scoring for both teams.
Duke forced five Cornell turnovers in the final 3:16 of the first half and used that intensity to get some vital separation.
It was 41-30 at intermission.
Curry said Duke talked about defense at halftime. Mainly about protecting their basket.
It showed. Cornell could barely run their offense out of the locker room, while Duke scored with stunning efficiency. It took the visitors an agonizing 6:29 to get on the board in the second half.
Meanwhile, Sulaimon, Plumlee, then Plumlee again scored inside practically out of the locker room. Curry hit from outside, Sulaimon hit from the line. Cornell coach Bill Courtney called a timeout 2:36 into the half and another at the 11:17 mark.
By that point, the lead had ballooned to 73-42.
Duke emptied the bench down the stretch, getting some valuable time for some youngsters, while resting the starters for the next night's game against Elon. No Blue Devil played more than 26 minutes.
Speaking of those youngsters, Alex Murphy had one of the more curious games imaginable. He didn't get off the bench in the first half and didn't start the second half. But he went in with 16:16 remaining and played the rest of the game.
Call it an extended audition. "I was a little bit tired at the end but it was good to get those minutes," he said. "I think I do a lot of things that can help this team, whatever I can do to help the team win."
Murphy ended with seven points, three rebounds, a steal and a block, showing the toughness and versatility projected for him over the summer. Amile Jefferson used his length and quickness to score eight points, with three rebounds in 16 minutes.
But the starters are the guys who will decide more competitive games. Curry scored 20 points in 23 minutes, while shooting only 10 times from the field and three times from the line.
If that sounds efficient, try Mason Plumlee, who made all eight of his field-goal attempts, scoring 18 points, with a game-high nine rebounds. Rasheed Sulaimon added 16 points and three steals.
Six of Plumlee's field goals were assisted by Quinn Cook, who had a career-high 12 assists. Cook had only one turnover. Tyler Thornton had five assists and no turnovers.
Even casual observers can see that Cook to Plumlee is developing into something special. "Everything was right at the rim," Plumlee says. "Quinn is just playing great. He's setting me up very nice, making my job easy. He's so in control. He's so fun to play with."
Marshall Plumlee played two effective minutes early but didn't return. Mike Krzyzewski said that Plumlee had sprained an ankle and that it was too early to tell if this was related to the earlier injury or judge the severity of the injury.
His absence did give Todd Zafirovski a chance to log four minutes. The popular walk-on made the best of the opportunity, with three points and a rebound.
Give Bill Courtney credit. We've seen numerous visiting coaches keep their starters in against the Duke bench in order to make a lop-sided score more respectable. But Cornell used a whopping 15 players.
Duke forced a season-high 26 turnovers. Florida Gulf Coast committed 25.
Mason Plumlee is now shooting 66-103 from the field. That's just under 65 percent.