Last night, the Duke Blue Devils faced their nemesis, the North Carolina Tar Heels. The stars for Duke were not the usual ones — Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee. Although Plumlee had 18 points and 11 rebounds, actually Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton provided the sparks that led Duke to a victory last night.
Cook finished the game with 18 points, six rebounds, two assists and four steals. Sulaimon had 13 points, five assists and two rebounds. Thornton scored nine points and grabbed three rebounds; however, he shot 75% from three-point range (three out of four). Curry scored 11 points while shooting 30% from the field and 40% from three-point range, which is not the norm for him. Curry averages a 44.7% field goal percentage and 41.8% three-point field goal percentage.
Cook, Sulaimon and Thornton scored 40 of Duke’s 73 points, which is roughly 55% of Duke’s total points last night. Curry was held in check last night; however, the role players were not. Cook looked like Jay Williams and Nolan Smith. He scored at will with a variety of shots, which consisted of running tear-drop jumpers, jump shots and lay-ups. His aggressiveness and tenacity, and more importantly, his relentless will to win fueled a young Duke team.
On paper, I think that Duke is an average team at best. However, when you see them play, you realize that head coach Mike Krzyzewski knows how to bring the best out of his players. Duke is still adjusting to Ryan Kelly’s absence. The real test for Duke will be how they adapt to the playing styles of non-conference opponents during the NCAA Tournament.