Commentary

Sorensen: Duke goes about business as usual in NCAA win

March 25, 2013 

— You see Ohio State beat Iowa State? The game was thrilling. The Buckeyes won on a last-second basket.

You see Miami beat Illinois? The Hurricanes won for a variety of reasons, among them a last-second stop.

Kansas made a ferocious comeback against North Carolina. Minnesota made a brief comeback against Florida.

Duke didn’t do any of those things Sunday night. The Blue Devils 66-50 victory against Creighton offered all the thrills of a business meeting.

They shot less than 40 percent from the field and made not a single play that would entice fans not aligned with Duke to jump and shout.

The Blue Devils used the same formula to beat Creighton Sunday that they used against Albany in their second-round game Friday.

They moved to an early lead and pushed it to double figures midway through the second half. Creighton’s biggest lead was four. It led 4-0.

Duke’s victory was a series of mini victories. The Blue Devils grabbed five more rebounds. They had five more steals. And their defense was superb.

Creighton took 19 3-pointers and hit two.

The Bluejays, which is not a ferocious name for a team playing in the men’s NCAA basketball tournament, shot 30.2 percent for the evening.

Forward Doug McDermott is a fine player. He averages 23.1 points, shoots 56.1 percent from the field.

He scored 21 against Duke but shot just 4 of 15.

Duke also struggled to score. The big men picked up fouls as if they collected them. Ryan Kelly was called for three in the first half. Mason Plumlee picked up his third foul 30 seconds into the second half and fouled out with 2 minutes, 45 seconds to play. Josh Hairston picked up five fouls in 10 minutes.

Seth Curry, who made 10 of 14 field goals against Albany, was at one juncture 1 for 7 and missed his first five 3-point attempts.

But a shooter is like a cornerback. You can’t think about the pass you gave up or the shot you missed. As Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski says, repeatedly, the NCAA tournament is about being “in the moment.”

For a shooter, it’s the next moment.

Curry stayed aggressive, going to the hoop, looking for his shot. He was 5 of 15 from the field, 2 for 9 behind the 3-point line.

He also scored 17.

The Blue Devils got a fine game from guard Rasheed Sulaimon, who scored 21 points on only nine field goal attempts. The pregame sheet the NCAA distributes said Sulaimon was not starting. You can’t believe everything you read.

And Duke offered some flash. As the first half was about to end, Tyler Thornton hit a long 3-pointer off the glass. Curry made a 3 off the glass against Albany.

The Blue Devils are 2-0 in the tournament when a Duke guard hits a 3 off the backboard without calling “glass.”

Florida Gulf Coast University played on the court before Duke did. The Eagles beat San Diego State 81-71. The game was joyful and kidlike, a dunk contest as much as a basketball game.

Fans screamed and chanted and everybody in the gym not aligned with San Diego State – approximately 10 of them – adopted the Eagles.

When Duke ran onto the court, the chanting and cheering ended. The adults were here.

The basketball was mature and less than thrilling and the Blue Devils, like the Buckeyes and Hurricanes and Jayhawks and Gators and Eagles, are going to the Sweet 16.

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