Mason Plumlee paced Duke with 19 points and 10 rebounds against Winston-Salem State. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
DURHAM—Duke's defense made the difference as the team's new-found length stymied Winston-Salem State in a 69-45 victory.
Check out the game story, as well as a few other observations below:
"There were times during the game where, offensively and defensively, it wasn't clicking. But it's another step, and when we put everything together we believe we are going to be really good." —Ryan Kelly
What we learned:
There's reasonable hope that the Duke defense will return to form this season
The aforementioned game story focuses mainly on Duke's defensive effort, which was excellent in the first half before the game devolved into a bunch of slop from both teams in the second. Yes, the Rams ended with more turnovers (19) than made field goals (17). Duke's length was an issue for Winston-Salem State all night.
The offense could be a prolonged work-in-progress
Duke did not shoot well Thursday, and the Blue Devils (at least right now) don't have anyone who can create their own shot. With Seth Curry limited (see below), and Ryan Kelly admittedly the team's second-best option, Duke is also counting on an unproven cast of characters to routinely hit jump shots. On the night, Duke was 25-of-64 from the field, and that includes a 1-for-17 effort from 3-point range.
"Three-point shooting, I don't know if we broke a record here for lowest 3-point shooting percentage," Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. "I don't think we're ready to shoot the 3. When we get the ball into Mason and he kicks it out, and Mason is a good passer, it should be automatic. Those are shots we've shot here for 25 years."
Kelly went 0-for-7 from the field while fellow starter Alex Murphy went 1-for-6. Obviously, both will have to better those numbers for Duke to be successful. But, the season hasn't even started yet, so there's not a large enough sample to know if the Blue Devils will struggle to put up points.
There's a bit of clarity on Seth Curry's injury
I'll have more on this early next week, but Curry played five-on-five basketball for the first time since Sept. 10. He has been limited by pain in his right shin, and his ability to cope with the pain will determine how much he plays this season.
On the floor, Curry was rusty, hitting just one of nine shots from the field ("I wasn't expecting him to blister the nets," Krzyzewski said), but, more importantly, he was able to play.
“I didn’t have a rhythm at all," Curry said. "But I’m not worried about my jump shots, I’m just happy I was able to move well and make some plays off the dribble and play defense the right way."
The epitaph: "I mean, shots will fall. It’s early, it’s the second game." —Mason Plumlee