Duke guard Tyler Thornton races Pennsylvania guard Zack Rosen to a loose ball. CHUCK LIDDY - firstname.lastname@example.org
BY JACK DALY
Updated 8:48 p.m.
DURHAM -- The beginning of 2012 looked a lot like the end of 2011 for Duke.
For the second game in a row, the Blue Devils attacked an overmatched opponent from the outset to build a big early lead and cruise to a lopsided victory.
Two days after drubbing Western Michigan by 40 points, the seventh-ranked Blue Devils had their way with Penn, opening the game with a 20-4 run en route to an 85-55 win on Sunday afternoon at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“I was really proud of our guys in their preparation for this,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “(Penn’s) a good team, and they were not able to run offense the way they normally do. Overall, it’s probably as good as a defensive effort as we’ve had team-wise so far this year.”
While Penn (6-8) has had an underwhelming season thus far, the Quakers do have a pair of quality guards in Zack Rosen and Tyler Bernardini.
Rosen came into the contest averaging 19.7 points per game while Bernardini had knocked down 17 3-pointers in his last three games. Duke (12-1) did a good job defending both – Bernardini only had one 3-pointer while Rosen had to labor to finish with 11 points.
“Our big guys did a very good job on the ball screens, which he usually uses very well to get into the lane and distribute,” Krzyzewski said of the defense on Rosen. “So our ball-screen defense was excellent.”
On the other end, Ryan Kelly hit all four of his 3-point attempts to lead the Blue Devils with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Seth Curry finished with 15 points while Mason Plumlee had 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Miles Plumlee chipped in with 10 points and seven rebounds to help Duke outrebound Penn 47-29.
Quinn Cook continued his strong recent play, dishing out nine assists against zero turnovers. In Duke’s last two games, Cook has 17 assists without a single turnover.
"Quinn is playing great," Krzyzewski said.
Helped by Cook, Duke’s offense had a nearly flawless beginning to the New Year, scoring on nine of the team's first 10 possessions against the Quakers. Even when the Blue Devils missed shots, they used their substantial height advantage – Penn’s tallest starter is 6-foot-8 – to grab offensive rebounds.
Kelly and Curry each knocked down 3-pointers while Mason Plumlee was effective at cleaning up the Blue Devils’ misses. Plumlee also had a pretty alley-oop to excite the Cameron crowd.
“I think we came out real aggressive on the offensive and defensive end,” Curry said. “We took them out of their plays early. On offense, we had a few plays that we wanted to run early, and we ran them to a T. It was good that we ran those plays well and let them know that we were tonight from the jump ball.”
Duke has a game Wednesday at Temple before it opens its ACC schedule Saturday at Georgia Tech.
If the last two games are any indication, the Blue Devils are about where they should be with the calendar turning.
“We’ve still got to get better,” Kelly said. “This will be a big test coming up next because it’ll be on the road, and the last time we were on the road (a 22-point loss to Ohio State), we didn’t do too well.”