Cook: Plumlee, Blue Devils face ‘dogfight’
Quinn Cook offers a unique background perspective on the battle inside that will be waged tonight at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Duke point guard has helped his teammate, senior center Mason Plumlee, average 18.2 points to become one of the top candidates for national player of the year.
In his pre-college days, at age 16 and 17, Cook played alongside North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo on a pair of U.S. national teams.
When rivals Duke and North Carolina meet tonight (9 p.m., WRAL/ESPN), the way Plumlee and McAdoo play figures to have a big impact on which team emerges the winner.
“It’s going to be fun,” Cook said. “Mason, to me, is the best big man in the country. McAdoo doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with. It will be a dogfight down there.”
At this point of the season, Plumlee appears to have an advantage over McAdoo just as No. 2 Duke (21-2, 8-2 ACC) looks like the better team than unranked UNC (16-7, 6-4).
Named the national player of the week by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association on Tuesday, Plumlee scored 30 points against N.C. State on Thursday and followed that with a 19-point effort in a win at Boston College on Sunday night.
McAdoo, a sophomore who averages 14.9 points, scored six points on 3-of-12 shooting in a lopsided loss at Miami on Saturday.
Plumlee, though, expects McAdoo to be at his best tonight. McAdoo’s ability to step away from the basket reminds Plumlee of N.C. State center Richard Howell, who scored 23 points on Plumlee and the Blue Devils a week ago.
“He likes a lot of jump shots, so I will have to get out on him like how I didn’t get out there on Richard Howell when he was knocking them down,” Plumlee said. “I’ll have to get out on him for sure.”
One thing that’s different, and better, about Plumlee this season is his ability to improve as a game progresses. He started off slowly at Boston College before coming on in the second half. He made three late free throws to provide Duke with its 62-61 win.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said that trait is a result of the hard work Plumlee put in during the offseason.
“We all have times where it’s just not as right as others,” Krzyzewski said. “A lot of us go through that moment and they accept the consequences of that. We’re willing to lose.
“If you have invested all this preparation and you are in it and you are reminded what you have done, you can turn it around in the middle of it. That’s what he’s been able to do in a couple of games over the last couple of weeks.”
Krzyzewski isn’t shy about his feelings on where Plumlee stands among players nationwide. He also knows UNC will do what it can to neutralize him, using McAdoo and others.
“I think Mason is the best big guy in the game, best big guy in the United States,” Krzyzewski said. “If they were to allow us to get him the ball and not double team and not put him in position to foul, that would be great. But they are going to do all those things.”
That’s why, even though Plumlee is the seasoned, accomplished veteran and McAdoo the newcomer to the UNC starting lineup this season, the battle in the paint remains something to keep an eye on tonight.