Blue Devils better positioned to avoid pre-Carolina letdown

lkeeley@newsobserver.comFebruary 9, 2013 

There’s a big rivalry game coming up Wednesday for Duke. But before that, the Blue Devils are braving the blizzard to play at Boston College.

“At times, your toughest challenge is keeping your guys focused for the game before the Carolina game because, around here, that’s all anyone wants to talk about,” assistant coach Chris Collins said. “It’s human nature.”

This year’s Blue Devils, though, are in a better position to avoid any type of pre-Carolina letdown, Collins said. Ryan Kelly’s Jan. 8 right ankle injury against Clemson – and his absence ever since – kept the team from getting complacent. And the 90-63 loss at Miami served as a wakeup call as well.

Since the Jan. 23 trip down to Coral Gables, Fla., Duke has been a model of efficiency, going 4-0 with two road wins and a victory over N.C. State, the first team to beat the current bunch. In all four games, the Blue Devils have shot over 50 percent from the field.

Duke has run more sets for Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry since Kelly’s injury, and the two remaining seniors have delivered. Plumlee has averaged 19.3 points per game in the past seven contests and has poured in at least 30 in two of Duke’s last three games. Curry is right there, too, with 18.1 points per game.

Add in Quinn Cook and Rasheed Suliamon, who take advantage of defenses focusing on Curry and Plumlee, and Amile Jefferson’s contributions on the glass and defensive end of the floor, and the result is a team that has found its new mojo.

“We’re always getting better,” Plumlee said. “We are considerably better than those first couple of games (without Kelly), but if you’ve accomplished it then you’re not getting better. We’ve just got to keep it going.”

And the next stop for Duke is in Chestnut Hill, Mass., where last-place Boston College (10-12, 2-7 ACC) awaits. While Ryan Anderson has been a bright spot for the Eagles, leading Boston College in both scoring (16.2) and rebounding (7.9) the young squad has struggled mightily. With no regulars standing taller than 6-foot-8, look for the 6-foot-10 Plumlee to try to take advantage.

“I think he is playing as well as anybody in the country, really,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Thursday.

And should Duke need another disruption to help refocus, the weather has provided one. The blizzard that dropped 20 inches of snow on Boston closed Logan International Airport, forcing the Blue Devils to arrive Sunday around noon.

They will leave directly after the game and return to Tobacco Road – just in time for a little neighborhood rivalry.

Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley

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