Duke placed five players in double figures in a decisive 89-68 victory over Boston College Sunday afternoon.
Duke put this one away early, using a suffocating defense, pin-point passing and lights-out shooting to build a 51-27 halftime lead over the visitors. It would be a half for a time capsule, if they still had time capsules.
In fairness, Boston College helped out early. The Eagles are a freshman/sophomore team and they didn't play in Cameron last year. Losing coach Steve Donahue admitted that his team wasn't ready for the moment and lost its poise. Twelve minutes into the game they had more turnovers than points.
BC actually led early, 5-3. That's before Amile Jefferson came in off the bench and amped up the energy level.
"I love playing at home," Jefferson says. "I got a tip early and it energized me and energized the team. You get in off the bench, make some plays, bring some energy and it translates to everybody. It's contagious."
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Jefferson tied the game inside at 5-5 and hit a jumper moments later for a 10-5 lead. Mason Plumlee fought through a series of double-teams for a three-point play, two more foul shots and a dunk and suddenly it was 17-6 and the rout was on.
BC responded by clamping down even tighter on Plumlee, which is a good strategy against a team with limited offensive options. But that wasn't the team Duke put out on the floor today, one in which Seth Curry and Quinn Cook were hitting from outside and freshmen Rasheed Sulaimon and Jefferson were attacking at every opportunity.
In fact, Sulaimon (27) and Jefferson (14) both notched career highs in points. Each came in for high praise from Mike Krzyzewski in the post-game.
"I liked the way two of my freshmen finished today. Rasheed had a sensational game. One of the things he did today was he played through contact in finishing. Instead of just trying to get the shot off, he played through contact. It's a sign of growth. Amile did the same thing, finishing through contact. It's one of the things you've got to learn."
Needless to say, late February is a good time for freshmen to be improving.
One late-first-half stretch shows how far the youngsters have come. Sulaimon scored inside to give Duke a 34-15 lead. He hit a 3-pointer on Duke's next possession, then a short jumper. Sulaimon assisted Jefferson inside, for an old-fashioned three-point play, making it 42-18. Plumlee assisted Jefferson for another three-point play, then Sulaimon hit a 3-pointer, then finished off Duke's first-half scoring with a three-point play inside.
In a span of just under four minutes, Sulaimon and Jefferson outscored Boston College 19-7, with three and-ones.
Remember when Jefferson had trouble finishing inside? He does and says those days are in the past. "I'm just getting stronger. Working every day, building up my body, getting that in-game feel."
Duke ended the half shooting 62 percent from the field, while forcing 13 BC turnovers.
Maintaining that kind of dominance for 40 minutes is the goal but human nature being what it is, not an easily attainable goal. Duke extended its lead to 60-30 and 67-36 before losing some defensive mojo. Boston College chipped away at the lead with runs of 6-0 and 10-0.
"We had great intensity defensively after the first TV timeout and the rest of the half," Krzyzewski said. "In the second half, you would like to have them play at that level defensively throughout and we didn't and they're not going to give up."
But despite the defensive lapses, BC never got the lead less than 21 points and the outcome was never in doubt.
In large part, that was because of Plumlee's second-half dominance. Krzyzewski praised his senior star. "In the first half we were scoring so much from the outside and on drive, but he wasn't impatient. He had only three shots but he had eight defensive boards and he made three sensational defensive plays. In the second half, he was like a battering ram."
Plumlee almost single-handedly got Boston College in foul trouble and went 7-8 from the line after intermission. He ended the game with 19 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, a block and two steals. His 16 double-doubles leads the ACC.
Plumlee thinks Duke is putting it together. "These last two games, offensively this is probably the most fun we've had in a long time. Guys are playing off one another and we're scoring together. It's not just isolation. It's not anybody forcing up shots. Guys are playing together. It's so fluid out there."
Seth Curry played sparingly in the second half, after scoring eight first-half points; he ended with 11. "Offensively we're getting better shots, sharing the ball," he says. "Defensively, we're playing with more energy. Sharing the ball coming out early, getting good shots, when we do that we're hard to guard. We're getting the right play calls, guys are being aggressive and when you have to key on certain guys, that means other guys are open."
Duke has another one of those funky weeks coming up, late Thursday at Virginia, back home Saturday afternoon for Miami. But Duke responded from the Maryland loss with a 177-124 week in two conference games. So the trend lines are good. Real good.
Ryan Kelly seems to have put away the crutches, hopefully for good. Krzyzewski said Kelly would be back "soon," but followed up by saying that he's not sure what "soon" means. Kelly suggested that there is no way he's missing the Senior Day game against Virginia Tech and might be back sooner.
Plumlee says he doesn't foresee any problems plugging Kelly back into the lineup. "Ryan's not coming in to fill in a role in which he's ball dominant. He's a smart player, a shooter and a lot of us have played with him. I have no worries [about the dynamics]."
Duke ran its all-time record to 170-33 when ranked in the AP top 10. The 2-0 week assures Duke (24-3) of its 110th consecutive week in the AP top 10.