Blue Devils finally put away Cornell
Showing rust from an extended break from games for final exams, Duke didn’t look like the nation’s No. 1 team for the first 15 minutes of play Wednesday night.
The rest of the night, though, the Blue Devils easily lived up to their accolades.
Playing for the first time since moving up to No. 1 in the national polls, Duke scored 23 consecutive points to pull away and dominate Cornell 88-47 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“It was pretty obvious that we weren’t who we have been all season early in the first half,” Duke senior guard Seth Curry said. “Once we got into halftime, we got our rhythm going in the second half and played better.”
The gaudy final margin — Duke’s largest of the season — covered up how well Cornell played in the first 15 minutes. The Big Red (4-7) found high-percentage shots, mostly in transition, and trailed 28-26 with 4:56 to play until halftime.
But over the game’s next 11 minutes, bridging the first and second halves, Duke only allowed Cornell to make two baskets.
“The second half, we were terrific,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Our guys were playing so hard and so together. It was very difficult for them to score. It was a great second half.”
The Blue Devils rattled off 23 consecutive points during one stretch in particular, moving the score from 37-30 to 60-30.
“In the second half, our defense starting picking up, we got in the passing lanes better, finishing plays, getting defensive rebounds and starting our break,” Duke freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon said. “We just got back to having fun.”
Duke (10-0) logged 11 steals as Cornell turned the ball over 26 times. Sulaimon, emerging as Duke’s top perimeter defender despite his youth, had three steals to lead the Blue Devils.
“They are really good,” Cornell coach Bill Courtney said. “I though our team played well in the first half. Eventually, their length, size and quickness really affected us. They forced turnover because they are so long and so well disciplined on defense.”
Offensively, Duke made a season-best 57 percent of its shots to blast the Big Red. Curry hit 7 of 10 shots for a team-best 20 points. Mason Plumlee was perfect on all eight of his shots from the field to score 18 points.
He even suffered the embarrassment of scoring a basket for Cornell in the first half when he tipped the ball in while attempting to grab a rebound.
“It was not one of my brighter moments,” Plumlee said with a laugh. “It was a terrible play.”
There weren’t many terrible plays for Duke in the game, especially in the backcourt. Curry’s 20 points were impressive. But sophomore point guard Quinn Cook also played well with a career-best 12 assists.
The Blue Devils had 23 assists on their 34 field goals, showing how well they passed the ball. Cook and junior guard Tyler Thornton, the team’s two main point guards, combined for 17 assists with only one turnover.
“Our guard play has been excellent since the Kentucky game,” Krzyzewski said.
Even though he missed his only three 3-pointers, Sulaimon made 6 of 10 shots overall to score 16 points.
About the only downside to the game was the somewhat murky injury situation with Marshall Plumlee.
The redshirt freshman center finally made his Duke debut in the first half, playing two minutes. He blocked a shot and grabbed a rebound.
But during his short stint, Marshall Plumlee felt discomfort in his left foot, where a stress fracture had occurred in October that prevented him from playing in the Blue Devils’ first nine games. Duke’s training staff, as a precaution, ruled him out for the remainder of the game.
After the game, the report from the training staff was that Marshall Plumlee didn’t suffer any new structural damage to the foot. Rather, the discomfort stemmed from an orthotic device he’s wearing in his left shoe to protect the foot.
“We didn’t want to put him back in,” Krzyzewski said. “We weren’t completely sure. It was too bad. He would have played a lot of minutes.”
Duke will have little time to mull Marshall Plumlee’s situation. The Blue Devils play Elon tonight (7 p.m., ESPNU) in their final game before a holiday break.
No. 1 Duke 88, Cornell 47
Percentages: FG .364, FT .750. 3-Point Goals: 1-11, .091 (Scelfo 1-2, Cancer 0-1, Miller 0-1, Tarwater 0-1, Cressler 0-1, D. Cherry 0-2, Gray 0-3). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 1 (Miller). Turnovers: 26 (D. Cherry 5, Gray 4, Chemerinski 3, Cancer 3, Asafo-Adjei 2, Miller 2, Scelfo 2, Tomic, Cressler, Peck, Tarwater). Steals: 5 (Gray 2, LaMore, Chemerinski, Figini).
Percentages: FG .567, FT .765. 3-Point Goals: 7-21, .333 (Curry 3-6, Cook 2-4, Kelly 1-1, Murphy 1-3, Sulaimon 0-3, Thornton 0-4). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 7 (Mas. Plumlee 3, Kelly 2, Mar. Plumlee, Murphy). Turnovers: 10 (Sulaimon 3, Jefferson 3, Mas. Plumlee 2, Kelly, Cook). Steals: 11 (Sulaimon 3, Curry 2, Thornton 2, Cook 2, Murphy, Kelly).
A—9,314. Officials—Roger Ayers, Tim Nestor, Jeffrey Anderson.