Duke's Sulaimon shines in first college game

csmith@newsobserver.comOctober 28, 2012 

— At Duke’s media day, Duke senior Mason Plumlee told reporters not to be surprised by the talented group of freshmen. They showed up on Saturday.

With a cast of veteran leaders for Duke including Plumlee and Ryan Kelly on the court, Rasheed Sulaimon stole the show as the Blue Devils defeated Western Washington, 105-87, Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Sulaimon got a chance to start with Seth Curry out due to injury and finished with 20 points, but also showed other facets of his game with three assists, two rebounds and two steals in the Duke win.

“That first half was insane for me,” Sulaimon said. “I just had a lot of adrenaline going for my first college game and I was able to turn that into points. My teammates put me in great spots and I got a lot of open looks.”

Coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke about the freshman’s performance following the game.

“He had an unbelievable first half,” he said. “I do think that with Seth [Curry] being out, Rasheed’s been able to play at the starting position and that’s helped him.”

The freshman scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half, including two three-pointers and going 4-for-5 at the charity stripe.

Despite not starting in the game, Amile Jefferson came off the bench in the first half and joined with fellow freshmen Alex Murphy, as both finished with two blocks. Jefferson finished the game with 13 points in his first collegiate game.

“I liked Amile’s personality today,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s the way he is in practice. If he finished a couple of times that would been a great performance.”

After the freshmen he seniors paced the Devils in the second half. Plumlee scored 11 in the second half and finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds in the game. An emphatic alley-oop dunk from Quinn Cook to Plumlee with less than five minutes remaining was an exclamation point for Duke as they pulled away by 19 at that point.

Kelly scored 12 of his 22 points in the second half and finished with a 3-for-4 clip from three-point range. That senior leadership didn’t go unnoticed by Krzyzewski.

“In the second half, they played like really good players,” Krzyzewski said. “Mason’s going to be capable of having 30 and 15 if he has a better first half.”

Krzyzewski joked about Kelly following the game.

“We had a scrimmage on Thursday at the children’s hospital and Ryan was 3-for-21 and didn’t hit a jump shot,” Kryzewski said with a smile. “So we come into today’s game saying, ‘Okay, where do we go with this?’ But instead he comes into this one and did a real good job.

“That’s a sign of a real good upperclassman.”

One story in the offseason was Quinn Cook earning the starting job and how he would perform this season. The defending Division II champion Vikings presented a challenge for Cook. The sophomore was paired with John Allen, who finished with four steals in the game.

Cook had just three assists to go along with his six turnovers, but Krzyzewski said he knew it was going to be a tough day for his point guard and had high praise for the 24-year-old Allen.

“Allen played him hard,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s a good matchup for Quinn to learn from. I thought he went after him hard […] and he played tough.”

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