Duke routs Maryland as Sulaimon hits for career-best 25 points
Rasheed Sulaimon took it upon himself to make sure Duke’s worst night of offense in years didn’t become a lasting trend.
One game after the top-ranked Blue Devils suffered a 27-point loss at Miami, Sulaimon nailed six 3-pointers and scored 25 points as Duke beat Maryland 84-64 Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The 6-4 freshman made 9 of 13 shots overall, including six of his eight 3-pointers, as Duke (17-2, 4-2) made 52.4 percent of its shots overall. That’s far better than the 29.7 percent the Blue Devils made in Wednesday’s embarrassing 90-63 loss at Miami.
“This was just a game to show basically what our character was like,” Sulaimon said. “Are we going to fold after a big loss, or are we going to step up and be men?”
The Blue Devils played far better and stronger across the board as all five of their starting players scored in double figures. It’s the first time Duke has had five double-figure scorers in the same game since senior forward Ryan Kelly, who averages 13.4 points per game, was sidelined indefinitely with a foot injury during a Jan. 8 win over Clemson.
“I think it’s our first step toward becoming who we’re going to be now,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We’re obviously a different team without Ryan and we have to play like we won’t have him. I think we’ll have him at some point, but we have to figure out who we are without him.”
The team Duke was in the first three games without Kelly looked like nothing like the nation’s No. 1 team. The Blue Devils scored nearly 10 fewer points per game, shot 11 percent lower on field goals and 3-point field goals and averaged five fewer assists per game.
That changed dramatically against Maryland (15-5, 3-4) thanks to Sulaimon and Mason Plumlee, who made 9 of 12 shots and scored19 points.
Part of the reason, Plumlee said, was the work Duke put in to sharpen a few things on offense.
“We were God awful in Miami,” Plumlee said. “But we’ve had 16 or 17 games where we have been a good offensive team. There’s no way we were going to come out and shoot 30 percent again. Part of that, too, was on the off days we worked on screening. It’s not like we just missed shots. We didn’t take good shots because we didn’t help people get open. So I think our screens were better today. We helped guys get open.”
Sulaimon took full advantage in the first half, when he made his first five 3-pointers and scored 18 points to help Duke take a 43-35 halftime lead. But he wasn’t perfect in the game’s first minutes.
When Maryland’s Dez Wells got around Sulaimon to grab three early offensive rebounds, Krzyzewski removed Sulaimon for some stern words.
“We got on him,” Krzyzewski said. “He did something that I think is so terrific. He said `I got you, coach. I’ll do better.’ He just embraced responsibility and anyone who embraces responsibility has a chance to do better. He came into the game and gave us a huge lift.”
Fellow freshman Amile Jefferson, in the lineup in place of Kelly, also boosted the Blue Devils play. The wiry 6-8 forward scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
“They played huge,” Plumlee said. “Rasheed, obviously, shot great. He wasn’t really forcing anything. It just came. Amile is so strong. For a guy who, I don’t know what he weighs — not much — he plays really strong.”
Point guard Quinn Cook also recovered nicely from the Miami game, scoring 11 points while dishing out nine assists.
Knowing Maryland is one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the ACC, Duke planned to exploit that by pushing the ball in transition off missed shots before the Terrapins got back on defense. The plan not only worked, but Duke turned the ball over only four times. The Blue Devils had no turnovers in the second half.
“We haven’t set a screen since the Temple game (on Dec. 8),” Cook said. “We really were setting screens. We had good pace out there everybody was communicating and we fought for 40 minutes.”
The only troubling news is that Plumlee said he tore a ligament in his left thumb against Miami. He played with a wrap on his hand against Maryland and showed no limitations.
With Kelly still on crutches and wearing a protective boot on his foot, Duke certainly couldn’t afford for Plumlee to be slowed.
The Blue Devils also knew they had to have a strong game against Maryland in light of their performance at Miami.
“This is a must win for sure,” Plumlee said. “You can’t come off a game like that and not respond. Teams are going to lose throughout the season, but losers don’t respond. I thought we responded well.”
|NO. 1 DUKE 84, MARYLAND 64|
Percentages: FG .417, FT .563. 3-Point Goals: 5-18, .278 (Faust 2-5, Aronhalt 1-2, Wells 1-4, Layman 1-5, Howard 0-1, Allen 0-1). Team Rebounds: 1. Blocked Shots: 5 (Wells 2, Mitchell, Layman, Len). Turnovers: 14 (Faust 4, Wells 3, Mitchell 2, Aronhalt 2, Howard, Cleare, Len). Steals: 1 (Faust). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .524, FT .412. 3-Point Goals: 11-22, .500 (Sulaimon 6-8, Curry 3-8, Thornton 1-1, Cook 1-5). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 3 (Jefferson 3). Turnovers: 4 (Cook 2, Mar. Plumlee, Mas. Plumlee). Steals: 7 (Curry 2, Mas. Plumlee 2, Cook 2, Mar. Plumlee). Technical Fouls: Plumlee.
A—9,314. Officials—Les Jones, Bryan Kersey, Michael Stephens.