Curry, Kelly, Plumlee face final Cameron battle
The first season they spent on campus together, Duke brought home the national championship.
Tonight, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry play their final home game for the Blue Devils with the team in the running for another NCAA basketball championship.
No. 3 Duke needs only to beat Virginia Tech tonight (7 p.m., ESPNU) to conclude its third unbeaten regular-season at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the past four seasons.
Kelly and Plumlee were active players in the first of those seasons where Duke didn’t lose a home game in 2009-10 en route to the NCAA title. Curry spent that season participating in practices only as he sat out under NCAA transfer rules after his move to Duke from Liberty.
With all three coming off a junior season when they were starters, they have formed the veteran core of a Duke team that’s been ranked in the top 10, usually in the top five, since October.
“When we have our three seniors on the floor, we are very good,” Duke associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “Mason, Ryan and Seth have been in a lot of games situation. Those guys couldn’t be more valuable to a team.”
Plumlee, a 6-10 center, has been in the conversation for national player of the year this season. He is averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game and could be the ACC’s player of the year.
Curry is Duke’s top perimeter scorer, averaging 16.9 points while making 56.1 percent of his 3-point shots.
Kelly, though, is the Duke senior getting the most attention these days. His 36-point game in Saturday night’s 79-76 win over Miami, in his first game back after missing nearly two months with a foot injury, earned him ACC player of the week honors on Monday.
Because Duke again has Kelly, a versatile 6-11 senior forward, the Blue Devils (25-4, 12-4 ACC) once again are whole and playing like a team that twice has been ranked No. 1 this season.
“Ryan, Mason and Seth of very good complementary offensive skills,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “That’s why when Ryan was out, the performances of Seth and Mason were even more exceptional because they didn’t have the spacing. You could game plan against them even better.”
Virginia Tech (13-16, 4-12) had its fill of Duke without Kelly on Feb. 21 at Blacksburg, Va. Curry scored 22 points that night, with Plumlee checking in with 13 points and 12 rebounds, in an 88-56 Blue Devils win at Cassell Coliseum.
With two regular-season games to play, the Hokies are last in the ACC standings. Still, as Wojciechowski said Monday, it never is safe to make assumptions in college basketball in March.
So Duke’s coaches want their players to keep their senior leaders in mind, take care of business and complete a 16-0 home season.
“We want to have a performance that’s worthy of what those guys have contributed to our program,” Wojciechowski said.