Duke drubs Michigan in Challenge game, 79-69

lkeeley@newsobserver.comDecember 3, 2013 

DURHAM It was a highly anticipated game, so much so that the Cameron Crazies starting camping out on Saturday.

And No. 10 Duke (7-2) didn’t disappoint, beating Michigan 79-69. The Blue Devils controlled the game from wire to wire, with minimal threat from the Wolverines.

Andre Dawkins’s ability to hit 3-pointers—cold, off the bench—proved a key turning point in the second half. Michigan had cut the Duke lead to single digits, sticking around solely thanks to the offensive effort of Caris LeVert, but Dawkins hit back-to-back 3s to put Duke ahead by a dozen with just under eight minutes to play. In game where points weren’t abundant while the outcome was in doubt, that was huge.

A Dawkins bucket off the dribble a few minutes later, which pushed Duke’s lead to 57-42, forced a Michigan timeout. Dawkins finished with eight points off the bench, a perfect 3-of-3 from the field.

It’s not hard to come off the bench and make shots like that, Dawkins said.

"Not when you shoot as many shots as I do," he said.

Duke was counting on that, too, calling a set for him immediately.

The Wolverines big three of Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas, who played after missing the previous game with an ankle injury, went a combined 7-of-18 from the field for 21 points before the final two minutes, by which time the outcome had been decided. The Blue Devils’ game plan centered around stopping Stauskas, who went 0-of-2 from the field and was guarded primarily by Tyler Thornton and Matt Jones. LeVert led No. 22 Michigan (5-3) with 24 points.

Quinn Cook (24 points, all in the second half), Jabari Parker (15), and Rodney Hood (14) led Duke in scoring. As a team, the Blue Devils shot 50 percent from the floor.

Duke continued to show its defensive improvement discovered in New York, effectively cutting off driving lanes for the majority of the first half. McGary, who made just his second start after being slowed with a lingering back injury, was ineffective in the high post, and the Wolverines didn’t challenge Duke in the low post. At halftime, Duke was out-rebounding Michigan on the offensive and defensive glass. Krzyzewski called the defensive effort "outstanding." It was certainly impressive.

The Wolverines only made three field goals (out of 19 attempts) in the first 16 minutes of the game. Several shots air balled while others bricked low off the glass, never having a chance to go in. There was nearly a six-minute spell between Spike Albrecht’s 3-pointer with 9:33 left in the half and McGary’s jumper, which came with three minutes, 57 seconds before the break. The Blue Devils had a 23-13 lead at that point, as they didn’t exactly light it up on the offensive end, either.

In the first half, Duke shot 13-of-31 from the field (41.9 percent), but that looked like a juggernaut compared to the Wolverines. Michigan did find a few easy transition baskets in the final four minutes of the first half, closing the deficit to seven in the final minutes, but a Thornton corner 3 just before the buzzer put Duke up 32-22 going into halftime. That was a season-low, in any half, for the Wolverines.

For the half, Michigan finished 8-of-26 from the field (30.8 percent) and 1-of-6 from 3-point range.

The Blue Devils continued to experiment with their lineup, searching for the best combination of offensive efficiency and ability to defend. The starters remained the same from last week: Quinn Cook, Thornton, Hood, Parker and Josh Hairston. Matt Jones was the first sub off the bench, logging 13 first-half minutes (Thornton had nine) and Andre Dawkins made a few brief appearances, playing for three minutes in the first half. Rasheed Sulaimon did not play at all. He has been struggling at both ends of the floor ever since he showed up for the start of preseason out of shape, according to Mike Krzyzewski.

"He knows what he needs to do," Thornton said of Sulaimon, declining to go into specifics. Krzyzewski has a similar answer: "He needs to play better than the guys that played tonight."

Marshall Plumlee was the first forward sub, and he showed promise in his four minutes. He grabbed an offensive and defensive rebound and made a nice hustle play, throwing a loose ball of a Michigan defender to maintain possession for Duke. Fired up, Plumlee was grabbed around the waist by Hood, who was equally excited.

Plumlee made an immediate impact when he entered in the second half as well, about five minutes in. He blocked a LeVert lay-up and finished a nice pass from Cook on the other end. On the Blue Devils’ next possession, Plumlee grabbed an offensive rebound and drew a foul. The key for him, Plumlee said, is to take deep breaths and remain calm, something his older brothers, Miles and Mason, have helped him with.

Plumlee’s development could by key for the Blue Devils, as he has the size to protect the rim. As a team, everyone is getting more comfortable with each other, Krzyzewski said. That showed Tuesday night.

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