DURHAM — The senior night festivities for Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry actually started Monday night, when Mike and Mickie Krzyzewski and their daughters took them out to dinner. Before the game, Plumlee paid attention to every song the pep band played, trying to soak in the sights and sounds of his last game in Cameron. So when the ball was tipped, it wasnt easy to cancel out the background noise and focus on the game.
Its hard, Plumlee said, until you realize youre about to lose. At halftime I think we got our heads on straight.
No. 3 Duke did play much better in the second half of the 85-57 win over Virginia Tech. After the game, Mike Krzyzewski was asked to reflect on having three great players still around as seniors, and he did so happily. And then a reporter asked him about Dukes defense on Erick Green.
We transitioned (that) quick, Krzyzewski said.
Green, the nations leading scorer with an average of 25 points per game, did score 25 Tuesday, including several long jumpers that kept the last-place Hokies (13-17, 4-13) within reach for 30 minutes. But his 13 second-half points were all tough shots, and he said after the game that Duke defended him better than any other team this year.
We made Green take tough shots, Curry said. He made tough shots, but we made him take tough shots.
Duke (26-4, 13-4) did not make Virginia Tech take tough shots early on, as ball screens freed the Hokies for open jumpers and easy drives through the paint. The Hokies started hot, making their first three shots for a quick 8-1 lead. Virginia Tech shot better than 50 percent from the field for the first 13 minutes of the game and went into halftime down just 38-35. The Hokies had a 18-10 edge in points in the paint after one half of play and also pulled down nine offensive rebounds, just one fewer than Dukes 10 defensive boards on the same glass.
We were a little sluggish because we started off bad not making shots, Curry said.
At halftime, Krzyzewski let his team know that the defense would have to be better.
Yeah, yeah that was something he definitely said we need to work out and fix, Kelly said.
Duke did tighten the defense considerably, as the Hokies shot just 32 percent from the field in the second half. Virginia Tech was also limited to eight second-half points in the paint and four offensive rebounds in the final 20 minutes.
The opening minutes of the second half were key for Duke. The Blue Devils went to Mason Plumlee on the first two possessions, and he finished the second with a slam. The Blue Devils hit five of their first six shots in the period, including two Seth Curry 3s that brought Mike Krzyzewski off the bench to fire up the crowd.
The second Curry 3 an off-balanced, one-foot beauty prompted a Virginia Tech timeout, as the Hokies trailed by double digits for the first time all night at 51-39. Curry led Duke with 20 points, including a 5-of-9 performance from behind the arc.
Kelly, playing his second game since missing eight weeks with a right foot injury, was again Dukes best player, finishing with 18 points, on 6-of-12 shooting, and also team-highs in rebounds (nine) and assists (five, just like Plumlee). Quinn Cook and Plumlee also had 14 points apiece.
The other guys played a lot better with Ryan out there, Curry said. The first game he was hitting everything, and guys were kind of watching him, not really knowing how to complement that. I felt like everyone contributed more today.
Krzyzewski said he was ecstatic about his team as Duke nears postseason play. The goal for the next 10 days is to get refreshed (and squeeze in a Saturday visit to UNC) and continue to reintegrate Kelly. Wednesday will be an off day for the players, as they have time to rest and focus on being students.
And if they want, theyll have time to reflect on ending their careers in Cameron, undefeated for the third time in four years.
-- After not playing at all against Miami, Amile Jefferson entered the game for the first time midway through the first half. Jefferson started six games in Kellys absence, but only two reserves (Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton) played against the Hurricanes.
-- A Virginia Tech 2-3 zone was effective for about four minutes in the first half. The Hokies were forced to switch back to man-to-man after 3s from Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry. The Blue Devils havent seen much zone defense this year.
-- With 1:11 left in the game, Mike Krzyzewski called a substitution timeout to insert reserve forward Todd Zafirovski into the game. Zafirovski was not introduced with the rest of the seniors, as he has one more year of eligibility remaining and is expected to return to the team.
Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley