Mason Plumlee shrugged off his struggles from the line to sink the game-winning free throw at Boston College. Credit: MARY SCHWALM/AP
Every Saturday, the News & Observer takes a look around the ACC. That also provides an opportunity to check in with the Blue Devils and look for any emerging trends.
Regardless of the lineup, there has been one constant for the Blue Devils this season: They finish well.
With Sunday’s 62-61 win at Boston College, Duke improved to 5-0 in games that are within one possession with under three minutes remaining. Against the Eagles, Duke actually trailed by five with 2:30 left in the game, but a 6-0 run, with three free throws by Mason Plumlee were enough for the comeback win.
While close, the win against North Carolina isn’t one of those five victories (for the record, they are Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, Wake Forest and Boston College). The Tar Heels cut their deficit to four with under a minute to go and forced Tyler Thornton to send up a prayer with one second left on the shot clock, but a Reggie Bullock foul on a rebound attempt sent Rasheed Sulaimon to the line, and he extended Duke’s lead to six at 67-61.
“Our guys have been so good at end of game situations to step up and hit,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the UNC win. “There is a lot of game pressure, and I know they are tired.
Here’s how the other close games finished:
Kentucky (64-61 with three minutes remaining): Duke goes 7-of-8 from the free throw line in the final two minutes of the game to win 75-68. Seth Curry also had six points in that same span.
Louisville (66-64 with three minutes remaining): Quinn Cook scores eight points in the final three minutes as Duke wins 76-71.
Ohio State (58-56 with three minutes remaining): the Blue Devils extended their lead to eight points with 1:04 left in the game, and Cook hit six free throws in the final minute of the 73-68 win.
Wake Forest (66-66 with 3:02 left on the clock): Curry connected for his first 3-pointer of the night to put Duke ahead, and Plumlee and Suliamon hit back-to-back shots to make it a two-possession game in the 75-70 win.
Every time they have needed to at the end of a game this year, the Blue Devils have risen to the occasion. While coaching undoubtedly has something to do with the late-game success—against Boston College, for example, Krzyzewski had seen through scouting what play the Eagles would run and set his defense accordingly—Krzyzewski deferred praise to the players.
“It’s always the kids in that regard,” he said “We have good kids. They want to win. They’ve stepped up.”