SHOWDOWN IN INDY
As his team played its most important game of the season — at least so far — on Friday night, Quinn Cook found himself on Duke’s bench in the second half.
His head was in his hands, a glum look on his face, and Duke’s assistant coaches were in his ear.
The No. 6 Blue Devils, with junior Tyler Thornton helping fill the void left by Cook’s poor play, were able to beat Michigan State 71-61 in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional semifinal anyway.
That gives Cook, who was scoreless with more turnovers (three) than assists (two) against Michigan State, a chance at redemption in the Midwest Regional final against Louisville today (5:05 p.m., WRAL) at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Given No. 2-ranked Louisville’s penchant for relentless, pressure defense, the heat will be on Duke’s backcourt in game where the winner reaches the Final Four.
Cook knows that’s true and doesn’t shy away from what’s next.
“The main thing for me is to stay posed against those guys’ pressure,” Cook said Saturday. “They want to be at you all 40 minutes. They want you to rush. If you play at your own tempo and be poised all game you will have some success.”
But Cook admits that poise was missing Friday night against Michigan State. The 6-1 sophomore had, statistically, his worst game of the season. And it continued a streak of NCAA Tournament struggles on offense.
Cook missed all five of his shots against the Spartans. That leaves him 4 of 21 from the field in Duke’s three NCAA Tournament games.
But his play against Albany and Creighton last weekend in Philadelphia was better in other phases.
Against Albany, despite scoring only four points, he did have 11 assists and only one turnover. Against Creighton, he had six assists and five turnovers while contributing to a defense that stymied the Bluejays’ normally potent half-court offense.
But Friday night saw a complete breakdown in his play. He spent all but a few minute of the second half on the bench before some words from Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel eased his mind.
“I was frustrated with myself,” Cook said. “Me turning the ball over a couple of times, I was frustrated with myself. I had my moment. Coach Capel got me out of it.”
Capel told Cook the mantra that permeates the Duke’s program — move on to the next play.
“‘Next play’ is the biggest thing here at Duke,” Cook said. “If you miss a shot just get back on defense, don’t hang your head. If you turn the ball over, get back on defense and make a play.”
In this case, the next play comes against Louisville (32-5), which has won its last 13 games and is the Midwest Regional’s top seed, not to mention the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, for his part, said his confidence in Cook has not been shaken.
“Players don’t play well sometimes,” Krzyzewski said. “He didn’t have a great game (Friday) night. But Tyler had a great game. So that’s having each other’s back. A really important thing for a competitor is to be able to forget. Not just forget when you play bad, but forget when you played well. In other words, get on to the next thing. He’s really played well this season and I would expect him to play well (Sunday) afternoon.”
Thanks to Thornton, who played 26 minutes and turned the ball over just once against Michigan State, Duke has a next play against Louisville. Cook said that fact alone has him in a good place mentally.
“We’re winning, so we’re in the Elite Eight,” Cook said. “My confidence is where it’s been all year.”
For most of this year, Cook has run Duke’s offense well. He’s averaging 11.7 points and 5.3 assists per game.
Louisville saw Cook excel when the teams played in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas last November. Named the tournament most valuable player, Cook scored 15 points and had six assists in Duke’s 76-71 win over Louisville in the Nov. 24 championship game.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino dismisses Cook’s slump, just like he isn’t worried about Duke leading scorer Seth Curry’s un-Curry-like play when playing with short rest between games.
“Although he may not be playing well right now, and the fact that somebody said he hasn’t played well on one day’s rest, we don’t pay attention to those things,” Pitino said. “We consider Cook a valuable, valuable asset. We’re going to try to stop him as well as (Seth) Curry.”
Louisville’s backcourt duo, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, are both suffering from cold and flu symptoms. Smith said a persistent cough nagged him in Friday night’s 77-69 win over Oregon, when he scored 31 points.
“That cold is definitely wearing me down a little bit,” Smith said.
But Cook, Curry and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon who, along with Thornton, will man the backcourt for Duke today, expect nothing less than the full force of Louisville’s pressure.
“That’s why they are so good,” Cook said. “They never let you have a possession off. They attack you. You don’t get a break. It’s a mental and physical grind.”
The way to beat it, Cook said, is to meet Louisville’s emotional level.
“It’s going to play big,” Cook said. “When we play with emotion and with an all-out fight is when we play our best. Those guys are going to play with emotion as well.”
LOUISVILLE VS. DUKE BY THE NUMBERS
|Opponents' scoring average .||57.9||64.7|
|Margin of difference||16.1||12.9|
|Field goal percentage||.454||.475|
|Opponents' field goal percentage||.392||.413|
|3-point field goal percentage||.331||.403|
|Opponents' 3-point field goal percentage||.316||.294|
|3-point field goals per game||5.7||7.6|
|Opponents' 3-point field goals per game||5.5||4.5|
|Free throw shooting percentage||.709||.738|
Louisville Cardinals Roster
Coach: Rick Pitino
|2 Russ Smith||G||6-0||165||Jr|
|3 Peyton Siva||G||6-0||185||Sr|
|5 Kevin Ware||G||6-2||175||So|
|10 Gorgui Dieng||C||6-11||245||Jr|
|11 Luke Hancock||F||6-6||200||Jr|
|14 Logan Baumann||G||6-0||165||Fr|
|15 Tim Henderson||G||6-2||195||Jr|
|20 Wayne Blackshear||G/F||6-5||230||So|
|21 Chane Behanan||F||6-6||250||So|
|22 Jordan Bond||G||6-0||165||Fr|
|24 Montrezl Harrell||F||6-8||235||Fr|
|25 Zach Price||C||6-10||250||So|
|32 Michael Baffour||G||6-2||170||Jr||.|
|44 Stephan Van Treese||F||6-9||245||Sr|
Duke Blue Devils Roster
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
|2 Quinn Cook||G||6-1||175||So|
|3 Tyler Thornton||G||6-1||190||Jr|
|5 Mason Plumlee||F||6-10||235||Sr|
|12 Alex Murphy||F||6-8||220||Fr|
|14 Rasheed Sulaimon||G||6-4||185||Fr|
|15 Josh Hairston||F||6-7||240||Jr|
|21 Amile Jefferson||F||6-8||195||Fr|
|30 Seth Curry||G||6-2||185||Sr|
|34 Ryan Kelly||F||6-11||230||Sr|
|40 Marshall Plumlee||F||6-11||235||Fr|
|52 Todd Zafirovski||F||6-9||245||Sr|
TALE OF THE TAPE
No. 2 seed Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 1 seed Louisville Cardinals
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
Time: 5:05 p.m.
Records: Duke 30-5, Louisville 32-5
“To have the familiarity that we had playing (Louisville) earlier in the season is a great help. We know how they are defensively and we know one of the big keys of the game is to handle that pressure.” — Duke freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon.
“We’ve got to come out and play our hardest and play like it’s a national championship game.” — Louisville guard Peyton Siva.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Louisville — Russ Smith, G, Sr. — Coming off a 31-point performance in Louisville’s 77-69 win over Oregon on Friday, Smith is averaging 27 points and 2.7 steals in this year’s NCAA Tournament. He has made 55.3 percent of his shots in the tournament.
Duke — Quinn Cook, G, So. — Duke’s starting point guard had one of his worst games of the year Friday against Michigan State. Cook went scoreless, missing all five of his shots while turning the ball over three times and dishing out only two assists. A similar performance today could doom Duke.
Louisville — 55.9 — The Cardinals are shooting this percentage in their first three NCAA Tournament games. Their top two shooting performances of the season game in their first two tournament wins, against N.C. A&T (57.4 percent) and Colorado State (56.4 percent).
Duke — 35.5 — Opponents’ field-goal shooting percentage against Duke in the NCAA Tournament. Duke’s foes in the last three games have made only 30.4 percent of their 3-pointers.
BEFORE THE TIPOFF
Courtesy Duke Sports Information
• Duke defeated No. 3 seed Michigan State 71-61 in the NCAA Sweet 16 to advance to the Elite Eight for the 13th time under head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
• Duke is 11-1 in the Elite Eight under Coach K and 16-2 all-time. Duke has won each of the last four NCAA Tournament Regional Final contests (1999, 2001, 2004 & 2010).
• Duke is playing in its 18th consecutive NCAA Tournament, the longest active streak of any program.
• Duke is 26-8 when playing as a No. 2 seed in the tournament. The Blue Devils are 13-3 when playing in the Midwest Region.
• Duke is 8-4 against No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
• The Blue Devils are ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll and No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Duke is 5-0 this season and 76-24 overall when ranked No. 6 in the country.
The Last Time Out
• Seth Curry scored 29 points and hit six three-pointers to lead No. 2 seed Duke past No. 3 seed Michigan State, 71-61, in the NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinal Friday.
• Curry hit six straight three-pointers, including his first three to start the second half, to spark a 24-11 Duke run that turned a tied game (38-38) into a 62-50 Duke lead.
• Duke shot 24-of-26 (.923) from the free throw line to set a school record for highest free throw percentage in an NCAA Tournament game (min. 20 FTA). Rasheed Sulaimon tied Duke’s single-game NCAA Tournament record with 12 made free throws.
• Duke held Michigan State to 1-of-13 shooting during a span of 12:47 in the second half. The Spartans missed nine straight field goals during that drought and went 8:30 without making a field goal.
• Duke advanced to the Elite Eight for the 19th time in school history and 13th time under head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Duke is 16-2 all-time in the Elite Eight and 11-1 under Coach K.
• The Blue Devils recorded their 2,000th win this season to become the fourth program in NCAA Division I history to reach that mark. Duke is 2,001-839 all-time and is one win shy of becoming the third team in NCAA history to record 100 NCAA Tournament wins.
• Friday’s win over Michigan State was Duke’s 30th of the season, giving the Blue Devils at least 30 wins for the 13th time in school history. All of those 30-win seasons have come under head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has reached that plateau more than any coach in NCAA history.
• Duke is 4-0 against top-five teams this season. Duke defeated No. 2 Louisville in the Battle 4 Atlantis on Nov. 24, 2012 and has also taking down No. 3 Kentucky, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Miami.
• The Blue Devils are 9-1 on neutral courts this season with top-25 wins over No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Kentucky, No. 9 Michigan State and No. 22 Creighton. Duke’s lone neutral site loss came against Maryland in the ACC Tournament.
• Duke was ranked No. 6 in the final AP Poll of the 2012-13 season. The senior trio of Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee spent their entire careers ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll.
• Duke is 16-0 against non-conference teams.
• Seth Curry has scored at least 20 points in two of Duke’s three NCAA Tournament games and is averaging 24.0 points per game in the tournament. Curry is shooting 50.0 percent (10-of-20) from three-point range in those three games with 3.3 made three-pointers per game.
• Seth Curry has hit a three-pointer in 17 consecutive games and is shooting .440 (51-of-116) from three-point range during that streak.
• Duke is 21-1 with Ryan Kelly in the lineup this season, including a 4-0 mark against top-five teams. Kelly is among the winningest players at Duke, posting a 111-14 (.888) record to rank third on Duke’s all-time winning percentage list.
• Rasheed Sulaimon leads Duke in made free throws (24) and free throw attempts (30) in the NCAA Tournament. Sulaimon hit 12-of-14 free throws in the 71-61 win over No. 3 seed Michigan State.
The Duke-Louisville Series
• Duke is 5-3 all-time against Louisville and 1-3 under Coach K. Duke won the last meeting, 76-71, on Nov. 24, 2012 in the Battle 4 Atlantis Championship game.
• Sunday’s meeting will mark the fourth straight game that both Duke and Louisville have been ranked in the AP top 10. At least one of the teams has been ranked in the top 10 in six of the previous eight meetings.
• For more on the Duke-Louisville series, visit: http://tinyurl.com/ck9ukl7
Duke in the NCAA Tournament
• Duke is 99-32 (.756) all-time in the NCAA Tournament over 37 total appearances. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski is 82-24 in the NCAA Tournament and has the most NCAA Tournament wins in Division I history.
• Duke has played in the national championship game 10 times, including eight times under Coach K.
• Duke is 14-2 against the 2013 NCAA Tournament field.
• Duke has received a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in 15 of the past 17 seasons.
• Duke is 7-1 in NCAA Tournament games played in Indianapolis, Ind. Duke won the 2010 and 1991 NCAA Championships in Indianapolis.