Mason Plumlee leads Duke past Georgia State 74-55

lkeeley@newsobserver.comNovember 10, 2012 

— In Duke’s opening game of the season, there were a few notable surprises.

The outcome wasn’t one of them.

The Blue Devils (1-0) were able to easily dispatch Georgia State 74-55. The Panthers (0-1) trailed by 10 at halftime, and a 15-6 Duke run at the beginning of the second half essentially put the game out of reach. Mason Plumlee, the previously announced centerpiece of the offense, led the team with 19 points and 14 rebounds. The overall personnel the Blue Devils used to earn the victory, though, would have been hard to predict before the opening tip.

The starting rotation appeared to be stable through the preseason and two exhibition games: Quinn Cook at the point, Rasheed Sulaimon (in place of an injured Seth Curry), Alex Murphy, Ryan Kelly and Plumlee.

That changed quickly, as Sulaimon performed well enough to earn a permanent starting assignment, Curry decided to play through his injury, and the point guard starter will now be based on specific game matchups.

Against Georgia State, coach Mike Krzyzewski preferred Tyler Thornton over sharpshooter R.J. Hunter, so he earned the nod over Cook. It was a decision made Monday, and Thornton made the most of his opportunity.

“Thornton was excellent,” Krzyzewski said of the point guard, who has the team’s longest active games started streak (14).

“I thought he was a little bit nervous against the zone, and he had a couple of early turnovers that hurt us. He guarded Hunter well.”

The multiple zones employed by the Panthers stymied the Duke offense initially, as the Blue Devils struggled to find a rhythm in the first half en route to a 32-22 advantage going into the break. The difference in the two halves stemmed from taking open shots in the second period, including shots from 3-point range. Just one game after Krzyzewski suggested his team wasn’t ready to shoot the 3 due to a 1-of-17 performance against Winston-Salem State, five Blue Devils connected from long range. Duke went 8-of-17 (47 percent) from 3-point range in the second half and 11-for-24 for the game.

“In the second half, we really had some great sequences where we made extra passes, got rhythm 3s and shot the 3 really well,” Krzyzewski said. “We haven’t had these reps where we’re playing together as a team with Seth in there.”

Curry played 30 minutes and finished with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the floor, including 3-of-7 from 3-point range. He said he will be sore tomorrow, but managing his right shin injury will have to continue throughout the year.

“My minutes will go up,” Curry said. “I was kind of in and out today, but my minutes will go up and I’ll get more comfortable. The biggest thing is just getting in better shape so I don’t get tired and I’m able to play those minutes.”

Murphy, who started both of Duke’s preseason games, did not play at all. Sulaimon took over that starting spot, and both Amile Jefferson (13 minutes) and Josh Hairston (8 minutes) took the remaining reserve minutes.

Krzyzewski said it was a coach’s decision to sit Murphy and that he is not hurt. His absence is only one element in a lineup that is still, clearly, a work in progress.

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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