Plumlee, defense lead No. 1 Duke past Elon
Playing for the second night in a row, the offense simply wasn’t cooking for No. 1-ranked Duke Thursday night.
The Blue Devil defense, though, kept dinner warm until the shots started to fall.
Elon became the fifth consecutive opponent to fail to make 40 percent of its shots against Duke as the Blue Devils pulled away in the second half to beat the Phoenix 76-54 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Blue Devils (11-0) made just 43.3 percent of their shots, their second-lowest field goal shooting percentage in game this season. That came one night after Duke shot a season-best 56.7 percent in an 88-47 dismantling of Cornell.
But such a swing on the offensive end doesn’t bother Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski as much this season. Thursday night showed why.
“I’m proud that we just kept playing defense,” Krzyzewski said. “You just have to muck things out for a while and all of the sudden we got that spurt.”
Like Cornell the night before, Elon (6-5) stayed with Duke for most of the first half. The Phoenix tied the game at 25-all with just over five minutes left in the first half.
But Duke held Elon to only one basket on its final eight possessions of the period. The Blue Devils forced Elon into awkward shots and consistently cleaned up the rebounds or stole the ball with quick hands.
Quinn Cook banked in a 3-pointer from near half-court at the buzzer and the Blue Devils led 35-27.
In the second half, Duke hit seven consecutive 3-pointers during one stretch to push its lead beyond 20 points and cruise to its 100th consecutive nonconference home win.
“We don’t give up that many easy shots,” Krzyzewski said.
Elon had only 10 assists against 17 turnovers as the Blue Devils stole the ball 10 times. Teams are averaging only 8.72 assists against Duke this season, something that Krzyzewski said is a good sign of how well the defense is playing.
“I like that about our team,” he said. “I think we’ve played really hard on the defensive end even though at times we haven’t played that sharp on the offensive end.”
The constant on that other end, once again, was Mason Plumlee. The senior center led Duke with 21 points and 15 rebounds, logging his sixth double-double in the last eight games.
“For us to be good I have to be good,” said Plumlee, who leads Duke in scoring and rebounding this season.
For a change, Plumlee wasn’t alone corralling rebounds, another area where Duke excelled on Thursday night. After having chronic problems allowing offensive rebounds this season, the Blue Devils saw Elon grab only five.
A major reason was the effort of Duke’s guards, particularly Quinn Cook. The sophomore point guard grabbed a season-high eight rebounds, seven of them on the defensive end. He also scored 10 points, recorded four steals and dished out three assists.
“I just wanted to get down there and help Mason out,” Cook said. “We rely on Mason too much to grab all the rebounds. Coach put a big emphasis on the guards to get some rebounds. I just wanted to get in there and snag some loose balls.”
With senior guard Seth Curry having a poor shooting night (3 of 10), junior Tyler Thornton helped fill that void. Duke’s lead was 43-35 with 13:29 to play in the game when Thornton sank 3-pointers on consecutive possessions. That started an 11-0 Duke run that gave the Blue Devils a 54-35 lead with 10:44 to play.
The way Duke was playing defense, Elon had little chance to climb back into the game.
“They do as good a job as anybody I have prepared against and have for years at hedging screens and forcing you way out,” Elon coach Matt Matheny said.
On Thursday night, playing one last game before a nine-day break from games for the holidays, playing their best in that area was good enough for the Blue Devils.
NOTES — After seeing his first game action for Duke on Wednesday night, redshirt freshman center Marshall Plumlee was not in uniform for the Blue Devils against Elon.
After the game, Marshall Plumlee said he felt some discomfort in his left foot, which has a stress fracture that kept him out of Duke’s first nine games. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Marshall Plumlee has a slight sprain in the foot.
The decision hold Marshall Plumlee out, both said, was more of a precautionary thing. Marshall Plumlee said there’s no serious setback and that the injury isn’t related to his stress fracture.
DUKE 76, ELON 54
Percentages: FG .385, FT .875. 3-Point Goals: 7-18, .389 (Koch 4-5, Isenbarger 2-6, Beaumont 1-3, Samson 0-1, Hamilton 0-3). Team Rebounds: 1. Blocked Shots: 1 (Troutman). Turnovers: 17 (Beaumont 6, Isenbarger 4, Troutman 2, Sabato 2, Samson 2, Winters). Steals: 3 (Troutman, Samson, Hamilton). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .433, FT .438. 3-Point Goals: 11-19, .579 (Sulaimon 3-4, Kelly 3-5, Thornton 2-3, Cook 2-3, Curry 1-4). Team Rebounds: 1. Blocked Shots: 2 (Jefferson, Kelly). Turnovers: 12 (Sulaimon 2, Hairston 2, Mas. Plumlee 2, Jefferson 2, Murphy, Cook, Curry, Thornton). Steals: 10 (Cook 4, Thornton 2, Jefferson, Curry, Sulaimon, Mas. Plumlee). Technical Fouls: None. Elon 27 27—54 Duke 35 41—76 A—9,314. Officials—Louie Andrakakos, Bryan Kersey, Ray Natili.