Curry’s 31, Blue Devils’ defense buck Broncos
Santa Clara scored more points against No. 1 Duke than any team previously this season.
When the Blue Devils needed to stop the Broncos, though, they found a way and remained undefeated.
Trailing by four points with 16 minutes to play, Duke held Santa Clara to one field goal over an eight-minute stretch that allowed the Blue Devils to pull away to a 90-77 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“When they took the lead, in the last 16 minutes, I thought we grew even more as a team,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I’m proud of my guys. That was a heck of a win for us.”
It’s a win delivered with timely defense and a large dose of hot shooting from Seth Curry. The fifth-year senior guard poured in a 31 points, his most ever in a Duke uniform, while sinking 12 of 18 shots.
He scored 18 points in the second half to lead Duke’s surge.
“When Seth is shooting the ball like that,” Duke senior Ryan Kelly said, “we just have to get it to him.”
Duke’s third senior starter, Mason Plumlee, produced his seventh double-double in the past nine games with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
But the 6-10 national player of the year candidate was quick to admit how close Duke (12-0) came to being upset.
“That’s a heck of a team,” Plumlee said. “If we don’t put the pedal down, we lose.”
Santa Clara (11-3) went into Cameron Indoor with a six-game winning streak and brimming with confidence. Kevin Foster, the Broncos’ all-time leading scorer, nearly produced the school’s first win over a top-ranked team.
Foster, who finished with 29 points, had 18 in the first half as Santa Clara, which trailed by as many as 11 in the first 20 minutes, was down 38-36 at intermission.
The Broncos were aggressive in the first four minutes after halftime, and Foster’s slam dunk with 16:27 left gave them a 45-41 lead.
That’s when Duke clamped down and unleashed a 26-5 run that turned the game permanently in its favor.
“They made their charge,” Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating said. “We knew it was going to come. We couldn’t stop it, and we had to fight back for the rest of the way.”
With Duke junior guard Tyler Thornton guarding him most of the time and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon helping out, Foster didn’t make another shot for another nine minutes. His Santa Clara teammates weren’t able to pick him up.
Santa Clara missed seven of its next eight shots and turned the ball over seven times.
When Duke’s Quinn Cook stole the ball from Foster and drove for a layup with 8:30 to play, the Blue Devils had built a 67-50 lead.
“At the beginning, they really knocked us back,” Cook said. “But once we got strong, we got really good shots. That was the biggest thing — just taking their physicality and just playing our game.”
On offense, Plumlee’s play inside served as a perfect complement to Curry on the perimeter for Duke.
Plumlee’s basket and free throw after scoring and being fouled on an inbound play started Duke’s charge.
With 14:48 left, Santa Clara’s Yannick Atanga was called for a flagrant foul when he elbowed Plumlee above the neck while they fought for a rebound. Plumlee’s two free throws put Duke in front for good at 46-45.
On Duke’s next possession, Curry missed a 3-pointer. But Cook ran down the offensive rebound, and Curry hit a 3-pointer on the second chance.
After Evan Roquemore sank 1 of 2 free throws for Santa Clara, Plumlee fed Josh Hairston on a post-to-post pass that led to a Hairston basket. Curry’s 3-pointer on Duke’s next possession put the Blue Devils up 54-46.
Marc Trasolini’s dunk cut Duke’s lead to six points. But the Blue Devils ran off eight consecutive points to take control. Curry scored three baskets during the stretch, two on drives to the rim, and Plumlee had a dunk as Duke moved ahead 62-48.
Santa Clara never drew closer than nine points the rest of the game. But the Broncos became just the third team this season, joining Louisville and Minnesota, to score more than 70 points against Duke.
By shooting 45.9 percent, Santa Clara is the first team since Louisville on Nov. 24 to top 40 percent shooting against the Blue Devils.
“They are good but a game like this for both teams helps,” Krzyzewski said. “They have a chance to beat us. We have to play really well in order not to be beaten today.”
No. 1 Duke 90, Santa Clara 77
Percentages: FG .459, FT .800. 3-Point Goals: 9-27, .333 (Foster 5-11, Cowels III 2-6, Roquemore 2-7, Trasolini 0-1, Clark 0-2). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 6 (Atanga 3, Garrett 2, Trasolini). Turnovers: 14 (Foster 5, Roquemore 3, Trasolini 2, Clark, Johnson, Cowels III, Atanga). Steals: 7 (Roquemore 2, Cowels III 2, Garrett, Foster, Atanga).
Percentages: FG .492, FT .636. 3-Point Goals: 7-14, .500 (Curry 4-7, Kelly 1-1, Thornton 1-2, Cook 1-2, Sulaimon 0-2). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 2 (Mas. Plumlee, Kelly). Turnovers: 11 (Cook 2, Thornton 2, Mas. Plumlee 2, Curry 2, Sulaimon, Kelly, Hairston). Steals: 6 (Cook 2, Sulaimon 2, Curry, Kelly).
A—9,314. Officials—Mike Eades, Sean Hull, Joe Lindsay.