CHARLOTTE — Over the course of No. 1 Dukes undefeated run through nonconference play, coach Mike Krzyzewski hasnt seen much from his team that has upset him.
And even though Dukes 67-50 win against Davidson was a struggle for the majority of the game, Krzyzewski came into the postgame locker room in a good mood, cracking a joke about the long walk he had had from the Blue Devils locker room.
And while he said he was pleased with his teams performance, he succinctly summarized the difference between the first half, which ended at 29-29, and the second.
In the first half, we gave up offensive rebounds, Krzyzewski said. In the second half, we didnt.
Duke (13-0) allowed Davidson (7-6) nine first-half offensive rebounds, which resulted in 14 second-chance points. Duke had zero second-chance points during this same stretch. Davidson also outscored Duke 16-10 in the paint in the opening half despite playing all but five minutes without 6-foot-10 starter Jake Cohen.
One reason Duke struggled in the paint was because of Davidsons game plan. Coach Bob McKillop called for his big men to double-team their Duke counterparts every time they touched the ball in the low post. As a result, Mason Plumlee finished with a season low in shot attempts (seven) and points (10). He also pulled down seven rebounds, recorded two assists and three blocks, and committed six turnovers.
Any player, when defenses begin to key on you more and more, you have to learn what you can do to help your team, said Ryan Kelly, who led Duke with 18 points. Like I said, even if (Plumlee) isnt getting as many shots or making as many shots, he does so much for our offense. Theres so much focus on him, it opens up things for other people.
Duke began to find openings in Davidsons defense more frequently in the second half. After recording just one assist while committing nine turnovers in the opening half, the Blue Devils had seven assists and just two turnovers in the second. Krzyzewski saw an opportunity to catch the Wildcats sleeping on ball screens, and Cook successfully drove the lane, either finishing his own shot or finding open teammates. Cook scored 15 points 13 in the second half and added two second-half assists.
He made some big floaters and layups to keep us going, Krzyzewski said of Cook. Hes playing with a lot of confidence. And he should be, because hes played well.
Duke opened the second half on a 12-0 run. Plumlee scored the first points on a strong drive to the basket. He missed the ensuing free throw, but Kelly converted both free throws after he drew a foul. Quinn Cook then hit a jumper to put Duke up 35-29 with 15 minutes, 47 seconds left. Tyler Thornton and Kelly followed with back-to-back 3s to put Duke ahead 41-29.
During this stretch, the Wildcats went 0-for-5 with four turnovers. Chris Czerapowicz finally made Davidsons first basket of the second half with 13:31 left.
The initial second-half spurt by Duke was part of a larger 19-5 run. Davidson shot 2-for-11 during this stretch.
But Davidson wasnt done. A Tyler Kalinoski 3-pointer cut Dukes lead to single figures with 9:11 left. DeMon Brooks hit a jumper in the paint over Plumlee, but Plumlee dunked the ball on the other end. After Jake Cohen hit a 3, Plumlee came back with a hook shot to put Duke back up by 10 at 52-42.
The Wildcats were never able to close the gap to single figures after that, in large part because Duke limited Davidson to just two second-chance points in the second half as opposed to 14 in the first. And that was certainly something that made Krzyzewski feel good.
-- One game after scoring a Duke career-high 31 points against Santa Clara, Seth Curry went 3-for-11 from the field for just six points in front of his hometown Charlotte crowd. He did record a team-high three assists, though, which tied his season-high. Other than Mike Krzyzewski, Curry drew the loudest applause during pregame introductions.
I got the shots that I wanted, but I just wasnt able to knock them down, Curry said. Coming out of the gate, I was maybe pressing a little bit, trying to get my shot going. It didnt really go early or anytime throughout the game. I got the shots that I wanted, thats the biggest thing. Ill bounce back Saturday.
-- For the fourth game in a row, Duke appeared to come out sluggish, or at least not matching the standard set this season. After the game, Quinn Cook didnt seem overly concerned that it would develop into a long-term trend.
We know we can get better at it. Its a long season. At the beginning of the season, we started off so great at the beginning of games. The last four games, we havent. We know we have to get better at that.
-- After the game, Duke alum and current Bobcats player Gerald Henderson stopped by the locker room to see the current Blue Devils (as Henderson left after the 2008-09 season, he no longer has any teammates left at Duke). He slapped hands with Josh Hairston and Quinn Cook upon his arrival and posed for several pictures.
-- The shortening of Duke's bench continues. Tyler Thornton, who finished with 10 points, was the only reserve to log at least 10 minutes (23). Josh Hairston played nine minutes, Amile Jefferson came in for three minutes, and Alex Murphy came in during the game's final minute.
Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley