Expanding depth imperative for Duke

lkeeley@newsobserver.comDecember 8, 2012 

— Entering Saturday’s game against Temple, Duke had the most productive starting lineup in the nation.

The Blue Devils starters, which are normally Quinn Cook, Seth Curry, Rasheed Sulaimon, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, average an NCAA-best 69.6 points per game. That’s 88.4 percent of Duke’s total scoring this year, which also leads the nation.

The fact that Duke does have such entrenched starters is one reason the team is undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country. But the Blue Devils realize that, down the line, they will need depth, too.

“We’ve got older guys that knew what our roles were coming into the season,” Curry said. “Our first five or six guys know that. That’s good enough to win early, but to go later into the season and through ACC play, we’ve got to get our bench going. We’re still working on that.”

Tyler Thornton is Duke’s most productive bench player, and he came into the game averaging 22.1 minutes and 3.4 points per contest. No one else averages more than 10 minutes per game.

There is help on the way, though. Marshall Plumlee, who has been sidelined to this point with a stress fracture in his left foot, is close to returning. He went through warm-ups for the first time and could have played today if necessary, coach Mike Krzyzewski said. The plan is for him to play in Duke’s Dec. 19 game against Cornell.

Before the season started, Krzyzewski had referred to Marshall as Duke’s sixth man. Since he has been out for so long, though, it’s hard to set expectations for his play now.

“I don’t think you’ll know until you actually see him,” Krzyzewski said. “I know it’s harder for Mason to score because he did practice the last couple of days partially.”

Thanks for the memories: Over the years, the Izod Center has been good to Duke. The Blue Devils are 20-1 all-time in the building that holds many good memories for Krzyzewski, and he referenced plays made by Duke alumni Christian Laettner, Gerald Henderson and J.J. Reddick after the game.

“I’ve seen a lot of a lot of great things in the building, and today will be another one of them,” Krzyzewski said. “And there were no gimmes in those 21 games here. Those were all-big time games.”

Ten of those wins came in the NCAA tournament, and two of them came over Temple. The Blue Devils beat the No. 1-seeded Owls 63-53 on March 26, 1988 to reach their second Final Four under Krzyzewski. And 11 years later, on March 21, 1999, Duke beat Temple 85-64 to go to another Final Four.

Duke’s only loss in the Izod Center (formerly known as the Meadowlands) came on Feb. 26, 1989, when Arizona beat Duke 77-75.

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