Both Ryan Kelly and Tyler Thornton scored in double figures for Duke in the 67-50 win over Davidson. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
CHARLOTTE—Over the course of No. 1 Duke’s undefeated run through nonconference play, head coach Mike Krzyzewski hasn’t seen much—anything, really—from his team that has upset him.
And even though Duke’s 67-50 win over Davidson was a struggle for the majority of the game, Krzyzewski came into the postgame locker room in a good mood, cracking a joke about the long walk he had from the Blue Devils’ locker room.
And, while he said he was pleased with his team’s performance throughout the game, he succinctly summarized the difference between the first half, which ended in a 29-29 tie, and the second.
“In the first half, we gave up offensive rebounds,” Krzyzewski said. “In the second half, we didn’t.”
Duke (13-0) allowed Davidson nine first-half offensive rebounds, which resulted in 14 second-chance points. Duke had zero second-chance points during that same stretch. Davidson also outscored Duke 16-10 in the paint in the opening half despite playing all but five minutes without 6-foot-10 starter Jake Cohen.
One reason Duke struggled in the paint was due to the game plan by Davidson (7-6). Head coach Bob McKillop called for his big men to double-team their Duke counterparts every time they touched the ball in the low post. As a result, Mason Plumlee finished with a season-low in shot attempts (seven) and points (10). He also pulled down seven rebounds and recorded two assists, three blocks and six turnovers.
“Any player, when defenses begin to key on you more and more, you have to learn what you can do to help your team,” said Ryan Kelly, who led Duke with 18 points. “Like I said, even if (Plumlee) isn’t getting as many shots or making as many shots, he does so much for our offense. There’s so much focus on him, it opens up things for other people.”
Duke began to find the openings in the Davidson defense more frequently in the second half. After recording just one assist (and nine turnovers) in the opening half, the Blue Devils had seven assists and just two turnovers in the second. Krzyzewski saw an opportunity to catch the Wildcats sleeping on ball screens, and Cook successfully drove the lane, either finishing his own shot or finding open teammates. Cook scored 15 points—13 in the second half—and added two second-half assists.
“He made some big floaters and lay-ups to keep us going,” Krzyzewski said of Cook. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence. And he should be, because he’s played well.”
Duke opened the second half on a 12-0 run. Plumlee scored the first points of the half on a strong drive to the basket. He missed the ensuing free throw, but Kelly converted both free throws after he drew a foul, and Quinn Cook hit a jumper to put Duke up 35-29 with 15 minutes, 47 seconds left in the game. Tyler Thornton and Kelly then hit back-to-back 3s to put Duke ahead 41-29.
During that stretch, the Wildcats went 0-for-5 with four turnovers. Chris Czerapowicz finally made Davidson’s first basket of the second half with 13 minutes, 31 seconds left in the game.
The initial second-half spurt by Duke (13-0) was part of a larger 19-5 run. Davidson shot 2-for-11 to open during that stretch.
Davidson wasn’t done, though. A Tyler Kalinoski 3-pointer cut Duke’s lead to single digits with 9 minutes, 11 seconds left to play. De’Mon Brooks hit a jumper in the paint over Plumlee, but Plumlee dunked the ball on the other end. After Jake Cohen hit a 3, Plumlee came back with a hook shot to put Duke back up 10 at 52-42.
The Wildcats were never able to close the gap to single digits over the rest of the way. One reason: Duke limited offensive rebounds. After giving up 14 second-chance points in the first half, Duke limited Davidson to just two in the second. And that was certainly something that made Krzyzewski feel good.