Looking at the final stats, it may not seem like it, but Duke played one of its best defensive games of the year and Quinn Cook was superb in leading the Blue Devils past Michigan by a score of 79-69 as the two teams squared off in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
The Wolverines shot nearly 45 percent from the field, but that number is a bit misleading as Duke focused in on Nick Stauskas and almost entirely took the Michigan star out of the game as he was hounded all night by the more athletic Blue Devils; Stauskas scored just four points, all on free throws. Duke also clamped down on Mitch McGary, challenging him to shoot from outside and the Michigan big man was more than happy to oblige, failing to exploit the biggest weakness of this Duke team — the utter lack of any sort of post presence.
It was a bit of a baffling decision by Michigan and coach John Beilein to not try to pound the ball inside, and while McGary finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds, those numbers did not tell the story. Duke used a big run in the second half to blow the game open, and it was only when Michigan and McGary scored several late baskets that it got to being just a 10-point final margin.
And at the center of the second half performance was Cook, who finished with 24 points and nine assists against just two turnovers. Most of his points came after halftime, as his higher profile teammates Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood faded into the background a bit as their point guard took complete control of the game. Of course, he wasn’t alone, as Andre Dawkins came off of the bench to hit a couple key three-pointers that helped to open up the game, and after going up by 10 points at the half, the Blue Devils never looked back.
Duke continued to dare Michigan to shoot threes, which they did so at a poor rate of just 3-for-13, and long twos and took advantage of run outs and transition baskets, several from Parker, to really assert their dominance.
It was far from a perfect game for Duke, and they clearly still have some pretty apparent flaws including the way teams continue to shoot high percentages even with slowly improving defensive efforts and the aforementioned lack of an interior game on either end of the floor, but it was still an impressive win over a top 25-ranked team, and was arguably the finest performance of Cook’s young career to date.