Curry, Kelly, Plumlee exit Cameron with win
One by one, Duke’s seniors reached double figures in scoring to help the No. 3 Blue Devils pull away from Virginia Tech on Tuesday night.
One by one, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry were removed late in the game, soaking in separate standing ovations as they left their last game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The three, who were part of an NCAA championship in their first together on campus in 2010, helped Duke beat Virginia Tech 85-57 to complete another unbeaten regular-season at home.
Curry, Kelly and Plumlee left with a flourish, combining to score 52 points as the Blue Devils (26-4, 13-4 ACC) locked down the No. 2 seed for next week’s ACC Tournament at Greensboro.
Their play caused Duke, which led 38-35 at halftime, to run away from the last-place Hokies (13-17, 4-13) and make Senior Night a relaxing experience.
“I thought the three seniors just asserted themselves in the second half,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Curry, a 6-2 guard who began his college career at Liberty before transferring to Duke in 2009, has spent his senior season dealing with a painful condition in his lower right leg. Krzyzewski said Tuesday night that the initial fear, back in September, was that Curry would miss the entire season.
Instead, Curry has played in all but one game for the Blue Devils. He scored a team-best 20 points Tuesday night, making 5 of 9 shots from 3-point range. Three of his 3-pointers came in the second half when Duke muscled to the easy margin of victory.
“Eventually,” Curry said. “I got off to a bad start on both ends. But I finally settled down, got some good looks at it and got some shots to go down. That’s what you want on Senior Night.”
Playing his second game after sitting out the previous 13 games with a right foot injury, the 6-11 Kelly was on his game again. He followed Saturday night’s 36-point effort against Miami by scoring 18 against the Hokies. Kelly also had seven rebounds and five assists.
“I felt pretty darn good,” Kelly said. “My shots didn’t all go in, but it was a great team win. In the first half, we didn’t bring it on the defensive end as much as we could have. But we picked it up and played like the team we could be in the second half.”
Plumlee, the 6-10 center who has led the team in scoring and rebounding all season, scored 14 points against the Hokies while grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out five assists.
It wasn’t a double-double performance like Plumlee has produced so many times this season. But it was good enough in a convincing win that leaves Duke 16-0 at home this season and 63-3 at Cameron over the past four seasons.
“It was a great win,” Plumlee said. “Seth and Ryan just played awesome. It was a good way for us to end our home regular season, going undefeated. I think that’s three of the four years. Some classes might not do that ever. So it’s something to be proud of.”
The Blue Devils weren’t at their best in the first half. Duke made only four of its first 13 shots, as the Hokies took a 17-10 lead.
A Kelly 3-pointer seemed to wake Duke from its funk, as the Blue Devils hit five of their next seven shots to take a 25-24 lead.
A 9-0 Duke run put the Blue Devils up 36-28. But Duke didn’t make another first-half field goal, and the Hokies went into halftime trailing by three points.
Plumlee admitted the team struggled with its focus on such a special night.
“It’s hard until you realize you’re about to lose,” Plumlee said. “At halftime, I think we got our heads on straight.”
Duke opened the second half with a 13-4 run that included a Tyler Thornton 3-pointer and back-to-back 3-pointers from Curry that gave the Blue Devils a 51-39 lead.
Virginia Tech pulled to within six points once, but Duke shot 60.7 percent in the second half to pull away.
The Hokies shot 32 percent in the second half and 38.6 for the game. Virginia Tech senior guard Erick Green, the nation’s leading scorer with a 25-point average, hit that number with 25 against Duke.
But this night was more about Duke’s three seniors, who capped the Cameron portion of their careers and set their sights on bigger prizes in the postseason.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of being here,” Kelly said. “I’ve enjoyed every minute on the floor. That’s the most important thing.”
Duke 85, Va. Tech 57
Percentages: FG .386, FT .615. 3-Point Goals: 5-17, .294 (Eddie 3-7, Brown 1-2, Green 1-4, Wood 0-2, Johnston 0-2). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 2 (Barksdale, Van Zegeren). Turnovers: 10 (Van Zegeren 2, Rankin 2, Brown 2, Wood, Patrick, Eddie, Green). Steals: 1 (Barksdale).
Percentages: FG .517, FT .813. 3-Point Goals: 12-23, .522 (Curry 5-9, Thornton 2-3, Cook 2-3, Kelly 2-7, Sulaimon 1-1). Team Rebounds: 1. Blocked Shots: 2 (Mas. Plumlee, Kelly). Turnovers: 4 (Thornton 2, Cook, Kelly). Steals: 3 (Curry, Sulaimon, Mar. Plumlee).
A—9,314. Officials—Brian Dorsey, Karl Hess, Joe Lindsay.