Duke hammers Clemson on the way to road clash at N.C. State
Critiques were coming in flurries Tuesday night after Duke dismantled Clemson 68-40 through the deafening roars of 9,314 in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The nation’s top-ranked team didn’t shy from them, nor did their hall of fame coach with 942 victories. Some had merit, others were just teases and a spin into what might happen when Duke plays its first “at” game on Saturday against N.C. State in PNC Arena.
“It was just a hard game to score,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Thank goodness our defense was a little bit better than their’s tonight. We only gave up the three assists. We have to keep playing defense like that.”
The Blue Devils were hardly vintage as a complete package, yet they still climbed to 15-0, held Clemson to 3-for-25 shooting in the first half and were never seriously threatened by an 8-6 team whose program rarely wins in the Triangle anyway.
“People got to have something to write about,” shrugged Seth Curry. “Coach is more picky than anything anybody writes about us.”
Among other things, Duke was questioned on its offensive output the first half (25 points, 29 percent shooting); Ryan Kelly’s absence the second half (precautionary after re-injuring a foot); Mason Plumlee’s eight points; and Quinn Cook’s scoring as compared to Saturday against Wake Forest (0 points and 14 assists Saturday, 27 points Tuesday).
“Quinn is Quinn,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s a great player. He had 14 assists and one turnover. He had a great game against Wake Forest. He was 0-for-11. Maybe it was because he didn’t pass to himself, didn’t hit him in the sweet spot. Maybe we’ll use that against N.C. State.”
Laughter aside, Duke was quite good against Clemson, with or without beauty points.
“Coach gave us a gameplan that worked on the defensive end,” Cook said after a 12-for-16 floor performance. He also picked off four steals and handed out five assists.
“It was good for us to make a statement like that,” he added of the defense.
Plumlee emerged from a physical one-on-one battle with Devin Booker having yanked 13 rebounds and scored eight points. Booker had 12 points and 15 rebounds.
“Mason and Booker, no one won that matchup, so that’s a win for us,” Krzyzewski said. “We don’t win the game without Mason. I’m not going to nit-pick this and that. Our guys played well. We don’t win unless our guys are doing a lot of good things.
“We’re not undefeated or where we’re at without Mason. If you want to look at every little thing he does, you can do that. He’s our best player. I’ll take Mason.”
And Plumlee saw the big picture as well.
“I thought our defense the first half was great,” Plumlee said. “We eventually got it going. Quinn played a great floor game.”
And as for the Wolfpack lurking on the road in a league matchup?
“We were 8-0 and lost three at home,” Krzyzewski said of last year’s ACC road record. “To me, we’ve had the best road record in the last 20 years. And, part of it is because you get accustomed to playing big games. Saturday, that’ll be a huge game. We welcome being on the road.”
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