Sitting behind the Duke bench during the Blue Devils 73-55 victory over Maryland was a proud father who had just watched not one, but two sons produce double-doubles. Perky Plumlee had that look of satisfaction on his face as he cracked his normally serious game face for a big grin and why not?
His eldest son, Duke senior Miles Plumlee had just grabbed an amazing 22 rebounds, the most of any player on a team Mike Krzyzewski has coached. "Miles was fabulous. That's the most rebounds any player has ever had that I have coached in 37 years in a ball game, and I told Miles, I have coached some pretty good players," Krzyzewski stated in his post game press conference.
The hope is that Plumlee will build on this performance and bring consistent play down the stretch as March will soon be upon us. With just six regular season games left and three of those at home, maybe that is in the back of the seniors mind.
Krzyzewski alluded to the fact that (Miles) Plumlee was great today and while he would not put pressure on Plumlee, he did mention him in the same breath as Brian Zoubek who played a huge role in helping Duke win the 2010 National Championship.
There are times when the light just comes on for players and if Plumlee were to bring half the rebounds he grabbed against Maryland to the table the rest of the way, it would be a good thing for Duke.
"I know I have the potential to be a great asset to this team," said Plumlee who then stated, "I just have to be consistent and play strong every night and that's something I can do."
The mere fact that Plumlee has grabbed more rebounds in a single game than any other player in the ACC this season is impressive. And Plumlee has the athleticism and size to be a major factor in coming games.
With wo straight double-doubles recorded by Plumlee it makes for a good start to stepping up his game as did the aforementioned Zoubek. And one must also remember that he was on that title team and saw up close and person what it takes to make a run at the ultimate prize.
On a day when it was hard to get up for the task at hand after a rousing and classic win over arch rival North Carolina, Miles Plumlee answered the bell and Duke fans can only hope that the comparisons to Zoubek continue.
Many Blue Devils fans voiced their displeasure with the new Nike duds on social media networks but it seems Miles took to them just fine. In fact, one might consider letting him wear that jersey underneath which ever other one he chooses the rest of the season.
The Duke Blue Devils are atop the ACC standings as the only undefeated team after a key road win over the Clemson Tigers. "I'm really proud of our guys. We played a really good team tonight. Brad (Brownell) is such a good coach and those guys are veterans, said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski after his team earned a 73-66 win.
Krzyzewski continued, "Our guys came off a great win against Virginia and to come on the road and tough it out was a good win for us." With the victory Duke, now ranked 4th nationally in the polls, but as mentioned, being atop the conference standings is the immediate goal of this team as they continue to get better.
"Obviously, Andre (Dawkins) played an outstanding game. His three-point shot when we had a four-point lead was huge shot." said Krzyzewski. Dawkins scored a game high 24 points on a night when there were just two other double figure scorers for the Blue Devils. But Duke was the first team to have more than two double figure scorers versus the Clemson defense to date this season.
Dawkins missed his first few shots before finding his range and coaches always want a shooter to keep shooting and that's exactly what the junior did. Each three pointer he made ripped through the heart of the Clemson team and on this night he was indeed the main key to victory.
There were some statistical bright spots as well, "Miles Plumlee was a force for us with 14 rebounds. Down the stretch, our guys hit free throws and I thought we finished the game very well,: said Krzyzewski. His 14 boards, which is monster by any teams standard was done in just 23 minutes.
His brother Mason Plumlee, knocked down 4 of 4 free throws after struggling from the line in previous games, showing a new follow through from the stripe. Mason added 12 points and 7 rebounds as well and has proven himself one of the most, if not the most, consistent players on the team to date.
In fact the team was 15 of 18 from the free throw line and that was another huge key as was the Blue Devils ability to maintain a working lead after being down big early in the contest going on an 18-4 run of their own to take control of the game and quiet a hostile and packed Littlejohn Coliseum.
Coach Krzyzewski decided to go with his veterans down the stretch, which proved wise as the Tigers defense forced 17 turnovers. Duke will next face Wake Forest in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Thursday and then come back on Saturday to face a Florida State team that demolished North Carolina.
• Duke improved its all-time record against Clemson to 104-29. The Blue Devils have won four straight in the series and 26 of the last 28 meetings.
• Head coach Mike Krzyzewski improved to 50-11 against Clemson during his 32 years at Duke.
• For the fourth straight game, Duke held Clemson under 25.0 percent shooting from three-point range. The Tigers have shot just 20.0 percent (13-of-65) from behind the arc against Duke during those four meetings.
• Clemson is the sixth team Duke has faced this year that ranks among the top 40 defensive teams in the nation (by defensive scoring average). Duke has averaged 70.2 points in those six games, while each those teams combine to hold opponents to less than 60 points per game. Duke ranks 11th nationally in scoring offense with 81.9 points per game.
• Duke became only the fourth team all season to have more than two double-figure scorers against Clemson. Andre Dawkins (24 points), Mason Plumlee (12) Quinn Cook (10) all scored at least 10 points against the Tigers.
• The post duo of Miles and Mason Plumlee combined for 18 points and 21 rebounds while shooting 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from the floor. Miles and Mason combine to average 9.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game this season.
• Duke trailed 18-9 at the 11:04 mark in the first half, but went on an 18-4 run over the next 6:50 to take a 27-22 lead. Duke outrebounded Clemson 10-7 and went 7-of-12 from the floor during that span.
• The Blue Devils carried that momentum into the second half, scoring on six of their first seven possessions as part of a 14-5 run. After overcoming an early 13-4 deficit and heading into halftime with a slim 32-28 lead, Duke led by as much as 13 points in the second half.
• Duke’s eight three-pointers tied for the most allowed by Clemson in a game this season. The only other teams to hit eight treys against Clemson were Southern Illinois (Dec. 23) and Boston College (Jan. 12).
• Scored in double figures for the fourth time this season and the second time in Duke’s three ACC games. Cook went 4-of-6 from the floor and 2-of-3 from three-point range.
• Ignited a second half run by sinking a driving reverse layup in the first 15 seconds, knocking down a three-pointer less than two minutes later and assisting on an Andre Dawkins three-pointer that put Duke ahead 46-33. Cook scored five of Duke’s first seven points in the second half as the Blue Devils opened that frame with a 14-5 run.
• Made his 30th consecutive start and played a team-high 31 minutes. Duke is 25-5 during that 30-game start streak.
• Is now averaging 16.3 points per game in three career games Clemson (including one game during his freshman season at Liberty).
• Hit a three-pointer for the seventh straight game. Curry has hit a trey in 16 of Duke’s 17 games this season.
• Went 4-for-4 from the free throw line, improving his percentage to .891 (49-of-55) for the third highest mark in the ACC.
• Scored a game-high 24 points for his seventh double-figure scoring game of the season. Went 7-for-12 from the floor, 5-for-9 from three-point range and 5-for-6 from the free throw line for Duke’s eighth 20-point game of the season.
• Dawkins scored Duke’s final six points over the final 1:16. Duke led by a slim four-point margin at 65-61 before Dawkins hit his fifth three-pointer of the game to improve Duke’s lead to 68-61. He then sank 3-of-4 free throws to hold off a late charge by the Tigers.
• Dawkins became just the second player to hit five three-pointers against Clemson this season. He is the first to shoot over 50 percent from three-point range against the Tigers (minimum five attempts).
• Took his team-leading seventh charge of the season.
• Recorded a block and a steal in the same game for the team-leading ninth time this season. Kelly ranks third on the team in both blocks and steals.
• Made his 38th consecutive start. Duke is 32-6 during that 38-game streak.
• Converted two three-point plays. Plumlee was fouled on a dunk both times and followed through by making the free throws.
• Threw down his 100th career dunk, becoming only the seventh player in school history to record 100 dunks. Plumlee has 31 dunks in 17 games this season.
• Put Duke ahead for good by converting a three-point play in the first half. With Duke trailing 20-18 at the 5:55 mark, Plumlee threw down a dunk, was fouled and sank the free throw to put Duke ahead 21-18. Duke did not trail for the remainder of the game.
• Had a perfect night from the free throw line, hitting all four attempts. It was Plumlee’s first career game without a missed free throw on more than three attempts.
• Hauled in a game-high 14 rebounds, giving him 10 or more rebounds in four games this year. The 14 rebounds were one shy of his career high.
• Recorded a block for the ninth straight game. Miles has 20 blocks during that streak for an average of 2.22 per game.
• Tied a season low by attempting just seven shots. Rivers went 2-of-7 from the floor to finish with a season-low four points.
• Saw a streak of seven consecutive made three-pointers come to an end. Thornton had not missed a trey since Dec. 19 for a span of five straight games without a miss from beyond the arc. He is shooting .500 (12-of-24) from three-point range this season.
Duke toughed out an important ACC win over Virginia on Thursday night pushing it's conference record to 2-0 in league play. And the reason they got the win? Defense. Coming into the game all the media outlets were talking about the Virginia defense and slept on the Blue Devils. In fact, some admonished them for being ranked lower than seasons past. Tonight, Duke held Virginia to 29% shooting in the second half and they also held them to just 0 of 11 from the three point stripe and that allowed them to come away with a hard fought 61-58 win. When the going got tough in ACC play, so did the Blue Devils defense.
Juniors step it up
The Blue Devils contingent of juniors stepped up big tonight. Mason Plumlee earned great praise from Krzyzewski in the post game interview and ended the game with 12 points and 7 boards, but he altered a lot of shots. Ryan Kelly added another 9 points and 7 boards and 3 huge blocked shots., while Seth Curry added 11 points a couple of dimes. But Andre Dawkins was huge in the early going and he too went for double figures with 10 points. Krzyzewski said it was Dawkins best overall defensive game of the season and that's high praise.
Plumlees earn Krzyzewski's praise as well
Miles fouled out and scored just 4 points but he helped on the defensive end against ACC POY candidate, Mike Scott. After his 16 first half points, the brother Plumlee held him to seven in the 2nd half.
Defense has long been a staple of the Duke program and tonight it was stellar. The game was not as close as the score indicated in the 2nd half mainly due to missed free throws where Duke went just 8 of 19 for the game. If those free throws drop, Duke coasts.
This and that
Duke won it's 19th straight ACC home opener and improved to their steak of ACC home wins to 44 straight, the last loss coming to UNC. Duke is now 3-1 against top 25 teams this season. Did you know that Duke is only the second team to score 60 or more on Virginia this season? They were also the first team to shoot 50% or better from the floor against Virginia. Duke used just eight players in the contest for the second time this season. Did you know that Andre Dawkins tied the game four times tonight? The 60 points combined by both teams was by far the lowest in Cameron this season. Mason Plumlee made his 37th straight start at Duke and freshman Austin Rivers scored in double figures for the 13th time this season. Duke next plays at Clemson at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
If you've been listening of late, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski has continued to say this years Duke squad is a work in progress and still coming together as a team. There should be few doubters after Temple took it to the Blue Devils by a 78-73 score, dropping them to 12-2 on the season. It was a night when only the Plumlee's seemed to show up on the offensive end where Mason and Miles combined for 33 points and 17 of the teams 29 rebounds.
The rest of the team was pretty flat and they never seemed to come up with the necessary intensity it takes to win a road game against a good, now 10-3 Temple team.. Just like in the loss to the Buckeyes, there were far too many players creating one on one situations on the offensive end which resulted in too many turnovers. It was one of those nights when all the Duke players weaknesses were exploited at one time or another and their collective strengths seemed lost.
As long as Duke keeps having more turnovers than assists, the trend could continue, especially on the road where this seasons team has yet to prove itself. It's no secret that Duke needs a leader to step up on the offensive end and get the players around him involved, but the players looked as it if they were standing around waiting for something to happen against the Owl's. Even when a Duke player drove to the lane, the rest of the team seemed to just watch instead of react. Again, too much one on one.
Duke had trouble containing the dribble-drive offense and the mid range game of the Owl's three guard offense and that forced Krzyzewski to insert freshman Michael Gbinije which speaks to the lack defense from the teams guards. If Gbinije can learn to bring the intensity consistently, he may be used more down the stretch in that he is skilled in many areas. But the Duke defense is as much a work in progress as is the effort to find their offensive identity.
Somebody is going to have to run the ship and get the ball to teammates consistently come ACC play. But more-so than the individual, the team needs to collectively show they can find open teammates. With a somewhat weak league, there is no reason to not expect Duke to bounce back Even if it weren't a down year for the ACC, history shows us that games like this one, St. John's and Georgetown and the like, often prove to be blips on the radar. But opposing coaches will be looking at the two road losses as a blueprint for victory and that means work has to be done and quickly.
The disappointing loss will allow Coach Krzyzewski to most certainly get the teams attention and the flight back was likely productive in nature as he'll surely use this defeat as a learning tool. If you have been around long enough you might even wonder if there is a method to the madness or that this loss can actually prove productive. A loss for a young team finding it's chemistry and identity is a given, but had you rather have that loss now or in ACC play?
As said, this loss gets the teams attention as conference action rules the rest of the season where they face two road games at Georgia Tech and Clemson in their first three games with a home date with an upstart and ranked Virginia in between. Expect Duke to be much better equipped to win those games after their loss to Temple in that every players weaknesses came to the top in that game and can now be dealt with.
But let's not forget the Blue Devils accomplishments to date either and how those have by no means gone away with the upset loss. Duke enters ACC play with victories over Kansas, Michigan, Michigan State and Washington to name a few. If Duke corrects their road woes, they'll win some games down the stretch heading into March. But there will be growing pains like last evening and another loss is inevitable, so adjusting expectations is wise.
Duke came into last nights game ranked number three in the nation and that was too high a ranking for this young team. Coach Krzyzewski now has the opportunity to teach his team from the experiences and while the team is being picked apart from talking heads and fans alike, who would actually wager against these Blue Devils possibly growing into a final four contender by seasons end?
There is a ways to go before that happens, but an out of conference loss will be nothing more than a blip on the radar at seasons end in that the one of the nations toughest schedules played to date and wins have Duke practically locked into the NCAA tournament with 17 games to go. And by the noon Saturday in Atlanta against Georgia Tech, we'll see if the Blue Devils respond and have learned how to come together enough on the road to win.
But just making the aforementioned tournament is not enough or a goal for a Krzyzewski coached Duke team and my thinking is that this team most certainly has a run in it to obtain one of the top seeds. Duke was outplayed in last evenings loss to a deserving Temple team and exposed in many areas, but the Owls nor anybody else really want to run into these Blue Devils after they've had time to stir the pot and season.