No. 2 seed Duke beats Albany 73-61
Duke had been hearing about Lehigh for a year.
The second-seeded Blue Devils used the perimeter shooting of Seth Curry and the inside dominance of Mason Plumlee to put last season's NCAA tournament upset to rest, beating Albany 73-61 on Friday in the second round of the Midwest Regional.
It was in the same round — and with the same seeding — that Duke was shocked by Lehigh last March.
"Doesn't really matter to us what people are talking about," Plumlee said. "We're very confident. I thought it was a good win today, and we're just focused on us."
It may not have been a blowout against 15th-seeded Albany, but the Blue Devils (28-5) held a comfortable lead throughout and will play seventh-seeded Creighton, which beat Cincinnati 67-63, in the third round Sunday.
"We're excited about this one and we're excited to be able to play in the third round," said Duke forward Ryan Kelly, who missed the Lehigh game because of injury.
Curry scored 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting, and Plumlee was 9 of 11 — including six dunks — for 23 points.
"These two guys really came through for us," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Quinn Cook had 11 assists — many on lob passes inside to Plumlee — and Duke shot 58.7 percent (27 of 46), just off its season-best 60.8 percent against Florida State.
"He was really good. Passing the ball, that's as well as he's played in a while," Plumlee said. "That gets guys going, and it's really hard to guard a passer. I thought he played great and just made life easier for everybody else offensively."
The Blue Devils, who lost 75-70 to 15th-seeded Lehigh in the second round last year, never really pulled away from the Great Danes (24-11), who got as close as eight points with 4:40 to play.
"They're Duke for a reason. They're good for a reason. They have great players all around you," said Albany guard Jacob Iati, who finished with 15 points. "They play in big games all season long and their whole careers every game is like that for them. For us, it's like the game of a lifetime; for them, it's just another day in the park.
"But I thought we battled. We played to win the game. We didn't think we were just coming here to play Duke and go home."
Krzyzewski extended his all-time lead with his 80th career victory in the tournament that he has won four times.
In addition to his dunks, Plumlee drew great reactions from the crowd when he made three hook shots — good old-fashioned hook shots that just aren't seen in college basketball much anymore.
"I've taken a few this year. Those are just the first couple to go down, maybe," the 6-foot-10 senior said, laughing. "I like coming across the middle when there's single coverage. I feel very confident. I have a couple of go-to moves. It's a hard shot to guard. I don't know why people don't do it more. But I love going to that move."
He certainly impressed Albany coach Will Brown.
"Plumlee did the best Kareem Abdul-Jabbar imitation I've seen in a long time," he said. "He hit three sky hooks. I haven't even seen somebody attempt that shot in my 12 years at Albany, and he hit three of them."
Albany was making its third NCAA appearance, all since 2006 and all one-and-outs.
Peter Hooley had 13 points and Sam Rowley and Mike Black added 10 each for Albany, which also lost its first NCAA game in the Wells Fargo Center. The Great Danes fell to top-seeded Connecticut after leading by 12 points in the second half.
"I mean, look at the two teams. They're physically, athletically bigger than us at every single position," Brown said. "Our motto really has been to fight, scrape and claw. ... You know, Jacob Iati is going to work for J.P. Morgan next year and Mason Plumlee is going to the NBA, and it's like that at almost every position."
Kelly had eight points for Duke, and the Blue Devils are 19-1 with the 6-foot-11 forward in the lineup this season. He missed 13 games with a right foot injury.
"When you get into the tournament, you play with a certain level of desperation," Kelly said. "They fought and fought for 40 minutes. We never expect any team to go away. They had guys that could shoot the ball."
The Great Danes shot 36.5 percent for the game (19 of 52). But they were 9 of 15 from 3-point range, the best by far of any Duke opponent this season and well above the 29.3 percent the Blue Devils had allowed.
This was the fourth time in five games in March that Duke shot better than 50 percent from the field; the only one below that mark was a 41.5 percent effort in the loss to Maryland in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament quarterfinals.
A dunk by Plumlee on yet another assist by Cook and two free throws by Curry gave the Blue Devils their biggest lead of the game, 54-38 with 12:17 to play. The crowd started the murmur that usually accompanies a blowout, but the Great Danes — the champions of the America East Conference — didn't pick up on that.
A 3-pointer by Hooley brought them within 62-52 with 6:11 to go. Two free throws by Iati made it 64-56 with 4:40 left.
But that was as close as the Great Danes would get, as Curry scored on a drive when he picked up a loose ball and then hit a baseline jumper to give the Blue Devils a 68-56 lead with 3:11 to play.