Mason Plumlee, Duke whip Minnesota in the Bahamas

lkeeley@newsobserver.comNovember 23, 2012 

— PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas --Duke didn’t miss many open shots and Mason Plumlee dominated under the basket on both ends of the floor. As a result, the No. 5 Blue Devils were able to beat Minnesota 89-71 in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis basketball tournament on Sunday.
 
“Duke hit every big shot that they needed to,” Minnesota forward Rodney Williams said. “No matter how good the defense was that we were playing.”
 
While the Gophers (4-1) hung around throughout the game, Duke’s shooters never went cold. Minnesota had held its previous opponents to 28.6 percent shooting from the field. The Blue Devils, though, shot 54.5 from the floor, a season-high. And while Duke attempted a season-low 10 shots from behind the arc, 80 percent of them went in, including a running 3 at the end of the first half from Quinn Cook that gave Duke a seven-point halftime lead.
 
Cook, making his second start of the year, was 3-of-4 from behind the arc and finished with 17 points, a new career-high. Cook also recorded five steals, four assists and four turnovers. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski said it was his best game of the year.
 
Several of Cook’s passes wound up in the hands of Plumlee, who had a double-double before the first half ended.  Plumlee finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds, in addition to his three assists, one block and one steal. He was also 8-of-10 from the free throw line.
 
“I’m in a role that I love,” said Plumlee, who is the focal point of Duke’s offense. “I’m in control out there. I’m very confident in myself and in my team.
 
“Everything is headed in the right direction.”
 
Minnesota attempted to push the tempo early in the game. And, while the Gophers were successful, both teams were sloppy early and failed to convert the plethora of turnovers into a significant number of points. Duke had seven turnovers in the first five minutes, and both teams finished the half with 10 apiece.
 
“They showed great stamina and good resilience,” Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith said. “And, again, making shots like they did. We didn’t capitalize. We had a number of opportunities when we did turn them over that we couldn’t score.”
 
Plumlee, too, tried to run the floor early.  He successfully took advantage of his conditioning edge over Minnesota center Elliot Eliason, scoring four of Duke’s first six points and grabbing three rebounds before Eliason left the floor. Minnesota rotated three different players on Plumlee—the 6-foot-11 Eliason, 6-foot-10, 289-pound Maurice Walker and 6-foot-8 Trevor Mbakwe. Plumlee tried to tire out Eliason and Walker by keeping them in constant motion while he attempted to move the smaller, more athletic Mbakwe lower in the post.

With their three-man rotation, the Gophers had hoped to keep their guys fresh while wearing Plumlee down.
 
It didn’t work.
 
“He’s just a real talented player, and he finds a way to get open,” Smith said. “They did some good things for him in the pick-and-roll to get him open. He’s just talented. And when you’re that talented, sometimes the best game plan doesn’t work.”

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