Long, blue line: Duke seniors depart with Coach K's admiration
With 59 seconds left in the Midwest Regional final, seniors Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly walked to the Duke bench for the final time.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski met each of them with a handshake and slapped Plumlee on the butt, Kelly on the chest and Curry on the back.
The senior class had averaged 31 wins in their four seasons and never dropped out of the Top 10 in the AP poll. But Sunday, there was nothing left for the seniors to do except watch Louisville put the finishing touches on an 85-63 win.
“My three seniors have been the epitome of Duke basketball seniors,” Krzyzewski said. “Winning 124 games over their four years, just representing us so well, and it’s been a joy every day to be with them. And for all except one team, it’s a tough ending.”
Kelly and Plumlee were freshmen backups, and Curry was sitting out the season after transferring into the program, when Duke won the 2010 national championship here at Lucas Oil Stadium. In their return to Indianapolis, they suffered the opposite kind of emotion.
“Unless you win it all, you’re going to feel like this,” Curry said. “I feel like we fought all year as a team, so it’s tough to see it end.”
As Curry spoke, he took a knife and cut off the tape that was wrapped around his right foot. He had been unable to practice for the majority of his season with a shin injury while Kelly had missed 13 games with a right leg injury. Still, the team went 30-6, and after suffering a shocking upset to No. 15-seed Lehigh in the NCAA Tournament last year, the Blue Devils made it to the Elite Eight this season for the second time since 2004.
“I think we’ve had an unbelievable season,” Krzyzewski said. “I didn’t like our season last year. Not just the way it ended, I just didn’t like it, even though we were 27-7. I loved this season. I love my three seniors.”
Plumlee said in the future, he would watch a replay of the home win against ACC champion Miami — one of Duke’s four wins against Top 5 opponents — and remember the good moments from the year. But that would be down the road. For now, he only feels disappointment.
“At this point in the season it’s about end result,” Plumlee said. “But I think a couple months from now, we’ll look back at it in totality. It’s tough, because you’re remembered for what you did at the end of the season and the Elite Eight may be good at other places, but at Duke it’s just different.”
Plumlee had 17 points and a game-high 12 rebounds for his 18th double-double in 36 games, but his classmates struggled.
Kelly made his first three shots, but picked up three fouls in eight first half minutes and struggled to regain his rhythm, missing his last six attempts. Kelly had been the team’s best 3-point shooter in the regular season but finished 1-for-18 from behind the arc in the postseason.
Curry, who was coming off a 29-point effort Friday against Michigan State, had trouble once again on short rest. He was scoreless in the first half and finished with 12 points on 3 of 9 shooting.
In the end, Duke had its second-lowest scoring output of the season and suffered its second biggest margin of defeat. Thirty minutes later, Kelly looked back at his final walk toward the bench.
“I was just kind of bewildered, to be honest with you,” Kelly said. “I still kind of am. To fully grasp that it’s all over, it’s tough.”
|LOUISVILLE 85, DUKE 63|
Percentages: FG .365, FT .750.
3-Point Goals: 4-16, .250 (Curry 2-4, Thornton 1-2, Kelly 1-5, Cook 0-1, Sulaimon 0-4).
Team Rebounds: 5.
Blocked Shots: 2 (Mas. Plumlee, Kelly).
Turnovers: 12 (Mas. Plumlee 5, Sulaimon 2, Murphy, Cook, Kelly, Hairston).
Steals: 4 (Sulaimon 2, Curry, Cook).
Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .527, FT .694.
3-Point Goals: 2-13, .154 (Henderson 1-1, Hancock 1-2, Behanan 0-1, Siva 0-2, Blackshear 0-3, Smith 0-4).
Team Rebounds: 2.
Blocked Shots: 9 (Dieng 4, Hancock, Harrell, Behanan, Blackshear, Siva).
Turnovers: 8 (Ware 3, Behanan 2, Dieng, Van Treese, Smith).
Steals: 10 (Behanan 3, Dieng 2, Smith 2, Siva, Blackshear, Ware).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials—Tony Greene, Doug Shows, Scott Thornley.