Cook, Blue Devils rally past Clemson
Quinn Cook exorcised a recent demon to keep Duke unbeaten Tuesday night.
Whether the No. 1 Blue Devils will be at full strength to maintain their perfect record this weekend remains to be seen.
One game after missing every shot he took, Cook poured in a career-best 27 points to propel Duke past Clemson 68-40 in ACC basketball at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
As good as the Blue Devils (15-0, 2-0) felt about the win, they were worried nevertheless about the status of senior forward Ryan Kelly. After scoring 12 first-half points, Kelly left the game with a foot injury and did not play in the second half.
“We don’t know the extent,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We’ll have to do X-rays and CAT scans and all that, and as soon as we find out (Wednesday), we’ll put the word out. We’re hopeful it’s not real serious, but for precautionary reasons, we thought it wasn’t good to play him in the second half.”
Kelly injured the same foot, his right one, in March and needed surgery to repair it. He missed the ACC Tournament, when Duke lost in the semifinals to Florida State, and the NCAA Tournament, when 15th-seeded Lehigh bounced the Blue Devils.
Over a holiday break from games in December, Kelly aggravated the foot in practice. That minor setback did little to affect his play, however. He scored 18 against Davidson a week ago and had 22 in a win over Wake Forest on Saturday.
X-rays taken of the foot Tuesday night were inconclusive. Krzyzewski said Kelly’s status for Saturday’s game against No. 20 N.C. State at PNC Arena in Raleigh will not be known until later in the week.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils fared just fine without him over the final 20 minutes against overmatched Clemson (8-6, 0-2).
In the first half, when Kelly scored his 12 points, Duke shot 29 percent — a season low for a half this season. But that looked strong compared to Clemson, which made only 3 of 25 first-half shots (12 percent).
Duke took a 25-10 lead to halftime after an unsightly 20 minutes of basketball.
“I know the first half was ugly,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “We couldn’t score. We missed a bunch of shots.”
Both teams heated up in the second half, but no one was hotter than Cook. The sophomore point guard scored 20 of his 27 points after halftime. One game after going 0-of-11 from the field against Wake Forest, he made 9 of 12 shots in the second half and 12 of 16 for the game against Clemson.
“The number of points and assists and lack of turnovers is huge,” Krzyzewski said. “But coming off of 0-for-11, I really love that, that he was so good in that regard.”
Cook played 35 minutes, dishing out five assists and recording four steals while turning the ball over just once.
“I didn’t let Saturday’s performance affect me,” Cook said. “My coaches told me to keep shooting in practice. For a player, for a coach to believe in you, that’s the best thing you can have. It was easy to move on.”
Duke’s Mason Plumlee, one of the team’s three senior captains also sent Cook numerous encouraging text messages since Saturday.
A look at Duke’s scoring totals after Tuesday night’s game told him Cook was back.
“I saw he had 27, and I was like ‘Holy cow.’” Plumlee said. “That was a heckuva game, and he didn’t force anything. It was all within the offense.”
Behind Cook’s sharp-shooting, the Blue Devils hit 72 percent of their second-half shots. That was the best half of shooting by Duke this season.
“Early on we tried to go to Mason and myself,” said Duke guard Seth Curry, who made 3 of 10 shots to score eight points. “Ryan did a good job of knocking down shots. Clemson did a good job of taking out of our offense and the things we wanted to do.
“We had to take some other routes. Quinn did a good job of being a benefactor, taking shots and being aggressive.”
Curry scored all eight of his points in the second half, propelling him over the 1,000-point mark for his Duke career, as the Blue Devils consistently maintained a double-digit lead over Clemson.
No. 1 Duke 68, Clemson 40
Percentages: FG .283, FT .643. 3-Point Goals: 1-11, .091 (Jennings 1-3, Harrison 0-1, Filer 0-2, McDaniels 0-2, Roper 0-3). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 3 (Booker 2, McDaniels). Turnovers: 13 (McDaniels 5, Hall 3, Filer 3, Fields, Booker). Steals: 8 (Roper 3, McDaniels 2, Filer 2, Booker).
Percentages: FG .482, FT .429. 3-Point Goals: 8-15, .533 (Cook 3-5, Kelly 2-2, Curry 2-4, Thornton 1-2, Sulaimon 0-2). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 1 (Mas. Plumlee). Turnovers: 13 (Mas. Plumlee 6, Thornton 3, Sulaimon, Cook, Curry). Steals: 8 (Cook 4, Mas. Plumlee, Jefferson, Kelly, Zafirovski).
A—9,314. Officials—Roger Ayers, Bryan Kersey, John Cahill.