What a difference one game can make. After shooting just 2-of-14 from three on Wednesday against Wake Forest and riding Mason Plumlee to their first road win, Duke flipped the script to get a blowout, 79-60, win over Florida state behind an 11-for-18 mark from three and just eight points from Plumlee.
An 11-0 run set the tone early for Duke as it played one of its best halves of basketball this season. The Blue Devils connected on five of their first six attempts before Florida State’s Montay Brandon finally broke the Seminoles’ silence.
Saddled with two early fouls, Plumlee spent the lion’s share of the first half watching from the bench while the Blue Devils ran all over the Seminoles behind a smaller lineup that featured Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston at the forward positions. Leading 21-7 when Plumlee went to the bench, Duke caught fire over the next seven minutes behind Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon and led 38-12 at the 3:10 mark.
The second half was when the long range bombs began falling. Sulaimon and Seth Curry made back-to-back bombs to open the scoring, followed by two from Quinn Cook. By game’s end Curry (5-of-7), Cook (4-of-6) and Sulaimon (2-of-4) had beaten the Seminoles senseless with knockout punch after knockout punch.
This was the closest Duke has looked to the team that had three wins against top-five teams despite the fact that Plumlee was a non-factor. Curry and Sulaimon were forces from the outside, Cook only turned the ball over once against six assists, Jefferson was opportunistic and smooth in the paint and Duke’s defense did its job in keeping Michael Snaer (seven points, 3-of-13 shooting) from effecting the game. If a normal Plumlee game was substituted for what Hairston provided, Duke likely scores in the 90s and the margin would have stretched into the 40s.
Expecting a barrage from three like this on a night-in, night-out basis is unrealistic. But even if Duke shot closer to 45 percent than the 61 percent they shot today with Plumlee doing Plumlee things inside this will be a very, very tough team to beat in March.
This win is the blueprint that Duke must follow for the rest of the ACC season and into the NCAA Tournament. Performances like this are borne from expecting great things to happen and now that they have done it, Duke can go out and do it again.
And again. And again.
Jimmy Kelley is the founder and lead writer of Devils in Durham. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsinDurham