Duke opened their 2013 ACC season with an 80-62 win over Wake Forest, running their record to 14-0 and insuring another week atop the national polls. The Blue Devils endured a few hiccups along the way but led by double-digits for the final 28 minutes.
Wake Forest tried to replicate Davidson's strategy on Mason Plumlee, tough, physical double-teams. It worked in the sense that Plumlee scored only two points in the half. But the attention paid to Plumlee left Duke's 3-point shooters open and the Blue Devils buried the visitors under an avalanche of beyond-the-arc bombs.
In fact, Duke didn't make a 2-point field goal until Plumlee's dunk made it 27-19, 11 minutes into the contest. Those first 25 points came on seven 3-pointers and four foul shots.
Ryan Kelly hit three of those bombs, plus the four foul shots, giving him 13 points before the second media timeout.
This shouldn't have surprised anyone. Kelly came into the game having scored 63 points in his previous three games against the Deacons.
Wake coach Jeff Bzdelik practically sounded like Kelly's press agent in describing his team's inability to handle the senior from Raleigh. "He can shoot the 3. He's very crafty, very intelligent. He's like a point guard. He can do a lot of things with the ball. He's smart, skilled and can stretch you out."
Wake did keep it close early, leading for the last time at 14-13. Then, Bzdelik says, "the game got away from us. We had some poor communications on switches and missed some open shots."
Kelly hit a pair of 3-pointers to make it 19-14. Then Tyler Thornton made it 22-14 and Seth Curry 25-17.
Duke opened up a 16-point lead at 38-22 and seemed poised to blow out the visitors. But Wake's veterans, C.J. Harris and Travis McKie stabilized their younger teammates and Wake closed the half scoring the final four points, making it 41-30.
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Duke shot 9-16 on 3-pointers in the first half, 3-17 from inside the arc. Mike Krzyzewski said he's fine with the emphasis on 3-pointers as long as they're good shots. "You take the shots that are there. We'll always shoot the 3 here. We space as well as any team in the country."
Still, Duke concentrated on reintroducing Mason Plumlee to the offense right after intermission. The big guy couldn't finish early but Kelly and Curry kept finding open spots. Kelly scored five more points early, Curry four, then Plumlee back-to-back buckets, putting Duke's lead over 20.
Krzyzewski cited a Quinn Cook steal early in the half as a play that generated a surge of energy, both on the floor and in the stands.
Kelly had 22 points with 17 minutes left and Krzyzewski said that he was on the way to a 35 to 40 point game. But he picked up his third and fourth fouls in the first four minutes of the half and hit the pine.
Duke didn't miss him much, at least at first. Plumlee began asserting himself inside, while Curry continued to blend long-range bombs, with sneaky but effective forays into the lane.
Curry recited the mantra for savvy scorers of opportunity; "be aggressive, pick my spots, don't force anything, don't take any bad shots."
Cook was the one guy who couldn't buy a basket. He would end the game missing all 11 of his field-goal attempts. But he also had a career-high 14 assists and managed an offensive that turned it over only six times.
"Great teams don't turn the ball over," Cook says. "If you give them transition baskets, that will get them going. We did a good job of not giving them that."
Curry adds, "We were smart with the ball, ran our offense to a T and got good shots."
Duke achieved its biggest lead at 65-40 and then went a few minutes with a lineup that included Marshall Plumlee, Tyler Thornton, Alex Murphy, Josh Hairston and Cook. The youngest Plumlee did score his first collegiate points but Wake also cut the lead to 14 before Duke got its starters back and got re-organized.
Krzyzewski called Duke's play during this period "dysfunctional, like la-la land. I didn't know what the heck was going on there for a few minutes."
Kelly fouled out shortly after coming back but Mason Plumlee, Curry and Sulaimon scored enough down the stretch to keep Wake at bay.
Kelly ended the game with 22 points in 18 minutes. "I was getting good looks and I was pretty confident with my shot," Kelly said. "Everybody was saying at the beginning of the year that I was struggling a little bit but the numbers always end up working themselves out. I got open looks and my guys got me the ball."
Curry matched the point total, while Mason Plumlee had his ninth double-double this season, with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Duke was outrebounded 43-35, while missing half of their 22 foul shots; the brothers Plumlee went 3-11 from the line. So, there are some talking points for next Tuesday's game against Clemson.
Kelly says Duke has turned the page on the early-season wins. "The ACC is all that matters, now. The 13-0 is gone. We're 1-0 now. We're still learning, we're still getting better. There certainly were some spurts during that game when some really good things happened. We just have to continue to have a chip on our shoulder and be out there saying we need to prove something every time. Everybody wants to take us down from that spot. We can't allow them to do that."
Kelly has scored 20 or more points five times at Duke. Four of them have come against Wake Forest. Georgia Tech was the other victim.
Cook says his nickname for Kelly is "baby Dirk."
Curry now had 998 points at Duke.
Mike Krzyzewski discussed Duke's bench at some length, noting that Duke's reserves were behind three pretty talented seniors, while asserting that the "development of starters is more important than development of depth." But he also praised Alex Murphy, Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee and says that they'll be needed this season.