Curry, Plumlee guide Duke past Albany
A dominating performance? Not quite.
A win? Most certainly.
And after last year’s experience, that was plenty good enough for No. 6 Duke on Friday.
The Blue Devils never trailed in their NCAA Tournament opener, producing a workmanlike 73-61 over Albany at the Wells Fargo Center.
Duke (28-5), the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region, never let the 15th-seeded Great Danes closer than eight points in the second half while holding them to 36.5 percent shooting.
But Duke also couldn’t turn the game into a complete blowout, as Albany’s deficit mostly hung around 10 points.
“No one said it was going to be easy,” Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon said of his first NCAA Tournament game. “Everyone here is playing with a sense of urgency. They played hard. We played hard, and we were just fortunate to get this win. Every win in this tournament is precious.”
Duke knows that very well. The Blue Devils didn’t win any NCAA Tournament games a year ago, dropping a 75-70 decision to Lehigh.
On Sunday, Duke will meet seventh-seeded Creighton in the round of 32 game. The Blue Jays (28-7) ousted 10th-seeded Cincinnati 67-63 on Friday.
On Friday, Duke took care of business the way a team with serious Final Four hopes should. The Blue Devils scored seven of the game’s first nine points and had a 20-9 lead eight minutes into the game.
Duke’s seniors, Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry in particular, were the difference. Curry, Duke’s top perimeter threat, scored 26 points while Plumlee, a force inside, had 23.
“Those two guys really came through for us,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
No other Duke player reached double figures, but that didn’t cause concern in the Blue Devils’ locker room since they plan to ride their seniors throughout the tournament.
In the second half, when Albany climbed back within eight points, it was something Plumlee did during a break in play that helped the Blue Devils survive.
“They were going to the free-throw line,” Curry said, “and Mason got us together and said, ‘Calm down and make the next play.’ That’s what we did going forward.”
Curry turned in the play that sealed Albany’s fate later in the second half.
Duke led 64-56 when Quinn Cook missed a shot. The ball was batted around in the lane, where Curry grabbed it before gliding in for a layup that gave Duke a 10-point lead with four minutes to play.
“I think a few times throughout the game there were some knocked loose balls, and they came up with them and knocked down some 3s,” Curry said. “In close games, those are the type of things that win or lose your games. So I was trying to be alert on the offensive glass. Somebody tipped it, and I was trying to get to it first.”
After Ryan Kelly’s steal near midcourt, Curry scored again with 3:10 left for a 68-56 Duke lead.
But Albany guard Jacob Iati pointed to Curry’s play on the loose ball as the one that really hurt his team.
“That loose ball was probably the biggest play of the game,” Iati said. “I thought I was going to get it and right before I did, Plumlee tipped it a little bit and it ricocheted off me right to Curry.”
Duke shot 58.7 percent, its second-best shooting day of the season, and thrived by not relying on fickle 3-point shooting. The Blue Devils hit 4 of 11 from 3-point range. With Curry going 2-of-2, the rest of Duke’s team combined to shoot 2-of-11 from behind the arc.
But Curry hit 10 of 14 shots by driving the ball to the basket or hitting pull-up jumpers. Plumlee had plenty of room to roam inside, sinking hook shots or powerful dunks while making 9 of 11 field goals.
His 81 percent shooting day was third-best by a Duke player in the school’s NCAA Tournament history. Christian Laettner’s perfect shooting day against Kentucky in 1992 tops the list.
“You have to pick your poison,” Albany coach Will Brown said. “Its hard for us to double-team Plumlee. We were going to play him straight up and roll the dice.”
Albany kept the game from turning into a blowout by hitting 9 of 15 3-pointers. Duke’s players admitted not playing perfectly on defense, which allowed the Great Danes to get some open looks from deep.
But overall, the Blue Devils handled job one off their NCAA Tournament journey. Krzyzewski tells them to approach this tournament like six championship games — five more to go.
“We won that first championship,” Kelly said. “Now we have to get ready for the next one.”
|DUKE 73, ALBANY 61|
Percentages: FG .365, FT .875.
3-Point Goals: 9-15, .600 (Iati 3-4, Hooley 3-6, Black 2-4, Devlin 1-1).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 2 (Puk, Metcalf).
Turnovers: 13 (Hooley 4, Rowley 4, Black 2, Johnson, Evans, Iati).
Steals: 7 (Iati 3, Black 2, Puk, Devlin).
Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .587, FT .714.
3-Point Goals: 4-11, .364 (Curry 2-2, Thornton 1-1, Sulaimon 1-2, Cook 0-3, Kelly 0-3).
Team Rebounds: 1.
Blocked Shots: 3 (Kelly 3).
Turnovers: 11 (Mas. Plumlee 4, Kelly 3, Curry 2, Cook, Thornton).
Steals: 9 (Curry 2, Kelly 2, Mas. Plumlee 2, Thornton 2, Cook).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials—Gregory Nixon, Larry Spaulding, Lee Cassell.
DUKE ALL-TIME IN NCAA TOURNAMENT
1955 — lost to Villanova 74-73.
1960 — beat Princeton 84-60; beat Saint Joseph's 58-56; lost to NYU 74-59.
1963 — beat NYU 81-76; beat Saint Joseph's 73-59; lost to Loyola of Chicago 94-75; beat Oregon State 85-63. Final Four.
1964 — beat Villanova 87-73; beat Connecticut 101-54; beat Michigan 91-80; lost to UCLA 98-83. NCAA runner-up.
1966 — beat Saint Joseph's 76-74; beat Syracuse 91-81; lost to Kentucky 83-79; beat Utah 79-77. Final Four.
1978 — beat Rhode Island 63-62; beat Pennsylvania 84-80; beat Villanova 90-72; beat Notre Dame 90-86; lost to Kentucky 94-88. NCAA runner-up.
1979 — lost to St. John's 80-78.
1980 — beat Pennsylvania 52-42; beat Kentucky 55-54; lost to Purdue 68-60.
1984 — lost to Washington 80-78.
1985 — beat Pepperdine 75-62; lost to Boston College 74-73.
1986 — beat MVSU 85-78; beat Old Dominion 89-61; beat DePaul 74-67; beat Navy 71-50; beat Kansas 71-67; lost to Louisville 72-69. NCAA runner-up.
1987 — beat Texas A&M 58-51; beat Xavier 65-60; lost to Indiana 88-82.
1988 — beat Boston University 85-69; beat SMU 94-79; beat Rhode Island 73-72; beat Temple 63-53; lost to Kansas 66-59. Final Four.
1989 — beat South Carolina State 90-69; beat West Virginia 70-63; beat Minnesota 87-70; beat Georgetown 85-77; lost to Seton Hall 95-78. Final Four.
1990 — beat Richmond 81-46; beat St. John's 76-72; beat UCLA 90-81; beat Connecticut 79-78, OT; beat Arkansas 97-83; lost to UNLV 103-73. NCAA runner-up.
1991 — beat Northeast Louisiana 102-73; beat Iowa 85-70; beat Connecticut 81-67; beat St. John's 78-61; beat UNLV 79-77; beat Kansas 72-65. NCAA champion.
1992 — beat Campbell 82-56; beat Iowa 75-62; beat Seton Hall 81-69; beat Kentucky 104-103, OT; beat Indiana 81-78; beat Michigan 71-51. NCAA champion.
1993 — beat Southern Illinois 105-70; lost to California 82-77.
1994 — beat Texas Southern 82-70; beat Michigan State 85-74; beat Marquette 59-49; beat Purdue 69-60; beat Florida 70-65; lost to Arkansas 76-72. NCAA runner-up.
1996 — lost to Eastern Michigan 75-60.
1997 — beat Murray State 71-68; lost to Providence 98-87.
1998 — beat Radford 99-63; beat Oklahoma State 79-73; beat Syracuse 80-67; lost to Kentucky 86-84.
1999 — beat Florida A&M 99-58; beat Tulsa 97-56; beat Southwest Missouri State 78-61; beat Temple 85-64; beat Michigan State 68-62; lost to Connecticut 77-74. NCAA runner-up.
2000 — beat Lamar 82-55; beat Kansas 69-64; lost to Florida 87-78.
2001 — beat Monmouth (N.J.) 95-52; beat Missouri 94-81; beat UCLA 76-63; beat Southern Cal 79-69; beat Maryland 95-84; beat Arizona 82-72.
2002 — beat Winthrop 84-37; beat Notre Dame 84-77; lost to Indiana 74-73.
2003 — beat Colorado State 67-57; beat Central Michigan 86-60; lost to Kansas 69-65.
2004 — beat Alabama State 96-61; beat Seton Hall 90-62; beat Illinois 72-62; beat Xavier 66-63; lost to Connecticut 79-78. Final Four.<.
2005 — beat Delaware State 57-46; beat Mississippi State 63-55; lost to Michigan State 78-68.
2006 — beat Southern University 70-54; beat George Washington 74-61; lost to LSU 62-54.
2007 — lost to VCU 79-77.
2008 — beat Belmont 71-70; lost to West Virginia 73-67.
2009 — beat Binghamton 86-62; beat Texas 74-69; lost to Villanova 77-54.
2010 — beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 73-44; beat California 68-53; beat Purdue 70-57; beat Baylor 78-71; beat West Virginia 78-57; beat Butler 61-59. NCAA champion.
2011 — beat Hampton 87-45; beat Michigan 73-71; lost to Arizona 93-77.
2012 — lost to Lehigh 75-70.
2013 — beat Albany (N.Y.) 73-61.