Blue Devils expect better home-court play as ACC season begins

lkeeley@newsobserver.comJanuary 5, 2013 

  • More information Duke vs. Wake Forest When: 12:02 p.m. Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham TV/Radio: ESPNU/WKIX-102.9 FM Projected starting lineups: No. 1 Duke (13-0) G Quinn Cook, So., 11.1 ppg, 5.6 apg G Seth Curry, Sr., 16.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg G Rasheed Sulaimon, Fr., 11.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg F Ryan Kelly, Sr., 12.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg F Mason Plumlee, Sr., 18.8 ppg, 11.2 rpg Wake Forest (7-5) G Codi Miller-McIntyre, Fr., 8.5 ppg, 3.0 apg G C.J. Harris, Sr., 14.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg F Arnaud William Adala Moto, Fr., 4.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg F Devin Thomas, Fr., 6.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg F Travis McKie, Jr., 14.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg Player to watch Travis McKie, Wake Forest If Wake Forest takes a page out of Davidson’s playbook and tries to double-team Mason Plumlee, McKie will likely be one of the defenders. At 6-foot-7, he is significantly shorter than the 6-10 Plumlee. But McKie is the second-tallest starter for the Demon Deacons. Freshman Devin Thomas is 6-9, but will he be able to contain Plumlee, a front-runner for national player of the year, by himself? Observations ***The Duke-Wake Forest series is the oldest in the ACC, dating back to 1906. The first meeting between the two programs was the inaugural game for each, with Wake Forest winning 24-10. The Blue Devils have played the Demon Deacons 237 times, more than they’ve played any other opponent. N.C State (236) and North Carolina (234) are the next most-frequent opponents. ***Duke has won the last five meetings between the two teams. The last Demon Deacons win (Jan. 28, 2009) was a memorable one, though-with 0.8 left on the clock, James Johnson laid in an inbounds pass to give No. 6 Wake Forest a 70-68 win over No. 1 Duke. ***There haven’t been many highlights during the Jeff Bzdelik era – a 28-47 overall record and 5-27 ACC mark will make sure of that. But Wake Forest is currently on a three-game winning streak with its best win of the year coming in its most recent game, a 66-59 come-from-behind win over Xavier.

On the surface, an ACC opener against Wake Forest, a team that’s won five ACC games in the past two seasons, may not look overly exciting.

But for the No. 1 Blue Devils (13-0), who tip off against the Demon Deacons (7-5) at noon, the game offers a chance to correct one of the last remaining negative trends from last season.

“Last year, we did not do well on our home court,” Ryan Kelly said. “That’s something we have to take care of. This is our first opportunity to do that.”

While the Blue Devils went 13-3 in the ACC last year, all three loses came at home. The fact that Duke was a perfect 8-0 on the road, only the fourth time the program has accomplished that feat, is of little solace to the team. Last year’s Blue Devils were the only the second team since 2001-02 to lose more than one ACC home game.

“You think Duke, you think about taking care of it at home,” Mason Plumlee said. “We have to do a better job of that this year.”

Plumlee also mentioned something else the Blue Devils have to get better at: starting strong. In Duke’s last four games (against Cornell, Elon, Santa Clara and Davidson) it has taken until the second half for the Blue Devils to find their groove. Those second halves have been impressive – Duke outscored those four opponents 178-106 during that span –but, again, the players are focused on what needs to be corrected.

“We can’t wait until the second half to start playing,” Plumlee said. “We have to get off on the right foot. We have to come out with energy.”

For Plumlee, the impending game against the Demon Deacons offers him his first chance this year to rebound from an off night. Against Davidson, he was held to season-lows in field goal attempts (seven) and points (10). Plumlee also committed a season-high six turnovers.

The Wildcats were the first team to consistently double-team Plumlee in the post, a move that many teams could copy going forward. The two defenders came quick, he said, as soon as he touched the ball, not letting him set his feet, which led to frustration.

“The biggest thing was just getting experience against it,” Plumlee said. “I would expect to see it again because it worked. That was evident by the game I had. But I’m ready. If it happens again, I’ll be better this time.

“If I can just show poise and relocate the ball, we’ll get wide-open shots.”

Kelly was the main benefactor from the extra attention Plumlee received, as the senior tied his season-high with 18 points against the Wildcats. As far as Kelly is concerned, though, that game, and a dozen others, is in the past, part of Duke’s now-finished opening leg of the season. Everything restarts with the opening of conference play.

“It’s a whole new start,” he said. “We’ve got to be fresh, we’ve got to excited.

“We want to do something special.”

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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