Quinn Cook was all smiles after Duke's 80-62 win over Wake Forest. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
DURHAM—After Duke’s thoroughly dominant 80-62 win over Wake Forest, Mason Plumlee sat with a towel draped over his legs and addressed the media.
First he was asked about not getting a ton of touches (“guys were taking jump shots, that’s all”). Then he was asked about slow starts—after Duke had led the Demon Deacons by 11 at the half (“We’ll start coming out better”). And finally, he was asked about runs the Blue Devils let the Demon Deacons make in the second half, like when Wake Forest cut a 25-point Duke lead to 14 points against Duke’s reserves, well after the game had been decided.
“I mean, we won the game,” Plumlee said. “We can talk about all the negative things, but, at the end of the day, guys stepped up.
“I feel like, talking to you guys here, that lost,” he said with a laugh and a smile.
In a way, Plumlee and the Blue Devils have almost become victims of their own success. Duke is 14-0 and has an average margin of victory of 22 points against teams not ranked in the top 5. While the team could rebound better, that’s about the only notable concern, and it certainly hasn’t impeded the team’s success. Yet all season, outsiders have consistently looked for flaws.
“Duke being one is old,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “We know that. …It happens. We’ve been No. 1 11 of the past 16 years, it’s not big news.”
In the meantime, Duke will aim to keep winning—even as a few outsiders attempt to keep the focus elsewhere.
****Duke has used a seven-man rotation during competitive games this year, and that’s fine with Krzyzewski. But against the overmatched Demon Deacons, who trailed by as much as 25 in the second half, forwards Marshall Plumlee, Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson saw the floor.
Jefferson, who averages 9.2 minutes per game but had played three minutes in the past two games combined, pulled down two rebounds in four minutes of action. Marshall Plumlee, who missed 10 games with a left foot injury, logged a career-high seven minutes and scored his first career basket. And Alex Murphy was 2-for-2 from the field for four points in eight minutes. Krzyzewski also offered unsolicited praise of Murphy, too, predicting that he will develop into a player with the ability to drive the lane and create his own shot.
After the game, Krzyzewski again emphasized that this Duke team doesn’t play many players by design.
“The development of our starters is much more important on the development of our depth,” he said. “Those three kids, Amile, Alex and Marshall are really good players. They are playing behind three seniors. It’s a different dynamic. There’s more separation than normal. And that’s good, that’s why we’re 14-0. That’s why we’ve won. You have to develop your depth and those young guys in a little different way with this team.”
****Wake Forest had the dubious distinction finishing with more fouls (24) than field goals (23). The Demon Deacon’s 19 turnovers stood out on the stat sheet, too.
“The experience factor is critical,” head coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “(Wake Forest beat writer) Dan Collins and I were just talking about Tim Duncan’s first game as a freshman. He had zero points and zero rebounds against a Division II team.”
****The Blue Devils, with their 14-0 record, are closing in on the best start in school history. The 1991-92 and 2005-06 teams both started 17-0. Wins against Clemson, N.C. State and Georgia Tech would tie that mark, and a win at Miami Jan. 23 would set a new record.
****Krzyzewski has said that this team limits an opponent’s assists (which, in theory, means Duke is playing tight defense and forcing teams to take tough shots) better than any other Duke team. Wake Forest recorded just eight assists, marking the ninth time this season that the Blue Devils have held an opponent to fewer than 10 assists. The Duke season record for holding opponents to fewer than 10 assists is 17 games, set by the 2009-10 national championship team.