Seth Curry has not been a full participant in practices this season due to health concerns, but you wouldn’t know it the way he has been playing this season. Curry continued his strong senior-season with a Duke career-high 31 points as Duke pushed past Santa Clara, 90-77, at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday.
Curry was the only Duke player who had it working in the first half, netting 13 points in the first session to combat Santa Clara’s early push. Curry scored six of Duke’s final eight points before the half to give Duke a 38-36 lead going into the break.
“In transition, they ran to the three-point line, and they can shoot as well as anybody, so we had to get some stops,” said Curry. “Then we were able to get out and get some easy buckets. We also executed really well in the half court down the stretch, so that was good for our team.”
The Broncos were led by their star guard, Kevin Foster, whose 18 points in the first half kept them in the game. Foster made eight of his 13 shot attempts in the first half, getting the better of the Blue Devils’ Rasheed Sulaimon.
However, Mike Krzyzewski made the defensive switch to Tyler Thornton in the second half of the game and Foster’s production slowed down. A savvy veteran, Thornton also managed to draw some fouls on Foster which opened things up for the offense.
“Tyler did a good job of holding him down,” said Krzyzewski. “I think he had 18 in the first half, but when Tyler was on him Tyler did a terrific job on him.”
Santa Clara made a run in the second half even with Foster’s production slowing down. A deep, experienced group, the Broncos led as late as the 15:43 mark before a three-point play by Mason Plumlee (22 points, 13 rebounds) gave Duke the lead back.
That three-point play by Plumlee sparked a 17-3 that widened the Duke lead to 60-48 with 9:44 to play and gave the Blue Devils all the room they would need.
“The last 16 minutes when they took the lead, I thought we grew even more as a team,” said Krzyzewski. “The offensive execution that we had, Mason and Seth were unbelievable seniors for us. I am proud of my guys; that was a heck of a win for us.”
This was another solid outing for the starting unit with Curry and Plumlee leading the way with their outstanding performances. Ryan Kelly notched his second double-double of the season (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Quinn Cook continued his solid play with 15 points and five assists.
Thought to be another tune-up game on the schedule, Santa Clara proved to be a tougher challenge than most believed.
“They were tough, a veteran team, and they made us better today,” said Cook. “Coach knows what he’s doing and he knows that a team like Santa Clara can only get us better. They came in here and they wanted to win, not just compete.”
In addition to improving to 12-0 and extending the non-conference home winning streak to 101-consecutive games, Saturday was a special day for Plumlee as he scored his 1,000 career point. Plumlee became the 62nd player in Duke history to do so and the first since Nolan Smith in 2010.
Everything seems to be turning up aces for Duke this season.
“We are undefeated, number one in the country; we are playing our butts off. Other than that, I am displeased,” joked Kryzewski.
Jimmy Kelley is the founder and lead writer for Devils in Durham. Follow him on Twitter @jp_kelley