It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t impressive, but it was a win. Mason Plumlee put up another impressive stat line, scoring 21 points and grabbing 15 rebounds as No. 1 Duke took care of business with a 76-54 win over Elon at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Much like Wednesday night, the Blue Devils started a bit slow before eventually going on one of their trademark runs with a 13-2 burst midway through the second half. The run was sparked by back-to-back threes from Tyler Thornton and helped widen the Duke lead to 19 points.
Thornton has been a key player for Duke all season as a veteran presence off the bench and in the huddle. On the season, Thornton is now 10-for-24 from three-point range on the season (12-for-27 overall) and has been one of the most consistent players for Duke all season.
“Tyler not only gave us a spark with the threes, but just with his defense,” said Mike Krzyzewski. “He and Quinn [Cook] kind of gave us a verve.”
With Seth Curry (8 points, 3-for-10 FG) struggling, it was incumbent upon Plumlee to establish himself as the best player on the floor and he did that early and often. Plumlee scored four of the Blue Devils’ first seven points and grabbed four rebounds in that same period of time before sitting down with a pair of early fouls.
When Plumlee was out of the game, Duke looked a bit lost without their big man to build around. Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon (13 points, 3-for-4 3PT) and Ryan Kelly (14 points, 5 rebounds) took turns handling the offensive duties in his absence, but not having Curry as that second offensive option proved damaging to the Blue Devils’ offensive flow.
Cook, who orchestrated the offense so well on Wednesday night, had a different type of performance on Thursday and responded to a call to arms from Coach K with flying colors.
“It is ironic,” said Krzyzewski. “Yesterday I think we were talking about point guard defensive rebounding and Quinn ends up being our second leading rebounder today with seven defensive rebounds.”
Cook finished with eight rebounds to go with 10 points, four steals, three assists and just one turnover. Duke guards as a whole rebounded well with Cook, Curry, Sulaimon and Thornton combining for 14 rebounds on the night.
“I just wanted to help out Mason and Ryan and Josh [Hairston] down there,” said Cook. “We rely on them a lot to get rebounds, so I just wanted to help them out.”
Duke did a particularly good job of keeping Elon’s pair of leading scorers somewhat under control, holding Jack Isenbarger and Lucas Troutman to 12 and 13 points respectively. Sebastian Koch‘s 14 points, headlined by a trio of three-pointers, paced the Phoenix on the night.
Duke will take the floor again on Dec. 29 with a third-straight home game against Santa Clara. Now 11-0, the Blue Devils feel good about where they are.
“We go to the break 11-0, we’ve played 11 great teams, and I feel like we’ve executed all the game plans that Coach wanted,” said Cook. “Today wasn’t the prettiest win, but we picked it up in the second half against a great Elon team. So we go into the holiday break with a good vibe.”
Hopefully those good vibrations carry over into the New Year and the ACC schedule.
Jimmy Kelley is the founder and lead writer for Devils in Durham. Follow him on Twitter @JKell17