No. 1 Duke cruises past Cornell, 88-47

Dec. 19, 2012 @ 09:33 PM

When students leave this tradition-filled campus for the holidays, the tourists flock to the venerable old gym.

Wednesday night they came again, 9,314 in all filling the far reaches of Cameron Indoor Stadium. And Duke didn’t disappoint their partisan guests, many of the first-time variety with cellphones and cameras capturing the moment.

Duke rolled past Cornell 88-47, withstanding a challenging first half and pulling away in the second.

“The atmosphere was still great,” said Rasheed Sulaimon. “Even though we were kind of down in the first half, they kept us going. The second half, we went back to Duke basketball.”

And the guests were delighted. They came to see head coach Mike Kryzyewski, and he had his moments with the striped guys.

They came to see defense, and the Blue Devils obliged unmercifully in the second half. Seth Curry, Quinn Cook and Ryan Kelly drew charges, Plumlee brothers Mason and Marshall ruled the rims before Marshall left with a new foot injury, and Quinn Cook and Sulaimon commanded the perimeter.

It wasn’t vintage. But against the Ivy Leaguers from Ithaca, N.Y., as the newly cemented nation’s No. 1, it didn’t have to be.

Mason Plumlee didn’t miss a floor shot and even scored a bucket for Cornell. It mattered little.

“You wonder if it still counts as two points,” Plumlee said of his immediate reaction to tipping in a missed free throw. He laughed and added, “It was a terrible play.”

The Big Red (4-7) hung for a half, then Duke turned on the burners. The Blue Devils (10-0), with their 99th straight non-conference home win, scored 23 straight in a 42-4 spree bridging the two halves.

“We pushed it up in the second half,” Cook said. “It was us not coming out with intensity. Coach got on us at halftime.”

“I’m not going to blame the lay off,” Krzyzewski said. “But I didn’t think we were ready defensively, and they were really good at pushing the ball up. I didn’t think we had the emotion we needed to play defense.

“I think the last eight minutes of the first half we started getting it. The second half, we were terrific. We were playing really well and really hard. It was difficult for them to score.”

Cornell shot 54 percent in the first half around 15 turnovers, but made just 7 of 31 shots for 22 percent in the second half.

Curry led Duke with 20 points and Cook had a career-high 12 assists.

“That doesn’t even surprise me because it seemed like a lot more,” said Plumlee, who finished with 18 points and nine rebounds.

Sulaimon added 16 points and three of Duke’s 11 steals.

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.