CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — With 24 seconds left in a tie game, Mason Plumlee stepped to the free throw line as chants of “Ugly Plumlee” rained down from the dual student sections in Conte Forum. The tension of the moment was obvious, but it became much more real when Plumlee missed the first shot. Undaunted and not shaken, the Player of the Year candidate calmly sank the second one and contributed to Duke’s final stop as the Blue Devils escaped Boston College with a 62-61 win.
It was far from a normal day for the Blue Devils as they shot the ball poorly, were victimized by turnovers, and played down to the level of their competition. Even stranger? As Plumlee stepped to the line at the end of the game it almost felt like the situation Duke wanted.
“I knew they were in,” said Plumlee, who made seven of his 10 free throws. “And they weren’t all in, but I just had that feeling that they were going in. So I just got up there and knocked them down.”
That’s a confident tone for someone who is making just 61 percent of his free throws, but that was the way Plumlee carried himself down the stretch. After not looking like himself for much of the game he scored the final three points for the Blue Devils and did it all from the free throw line.
After Plumlee’s second free throw gave Duke a one-point lead, the game came down to one possession with Boston College looking to do what they had done all game: abuse Duke off the pick and roll with Ryan Anderson and Olivier Hanlan. That was the play and Hanlan got into the paint, but with Duke playing the last possession perfectly, Hanlan’s shot never had a chance.
“Coach knows what do to,” said Plumlee. “He knew Anderson was going to set the ball screen so he put Rasheed [Sulaimon] on him. Him and Tyler [Thornton] are our two best perimeter defenders and they came through with a stop.”
A storm-altered travel schedule made this a day trip for the Blue Devils and it was evident in their play that they were a bit off. The first half was particularly ugly with the teams taking a 27-27 tie into the half.
Boston College came out as the fresher team and even in the second half never backed down from Duke, even taking a late lead at 61-56 after a 10-1 run led by Anderson and Hanlan. Quinn Cook hit a monster three from the corner to cut the game to two before Plumlee’s free throws sealed the deal.
“Nobody really panicked when we were down five toward the end of the game,” Curry said. “We just made plays and shared the ball and got shots.”
Curry finished with 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting (2-for-6 from three) to come in just behind Plumlee’s 19 points and 10 rebounds. A three early in the second half pushed he and his brother, Stephen, past Ben and Tyler Hansbrough as the highest scoring brother duo in college basketball history.
Hanlan led the way for Boston College with 20 points including an 11-for-12 showing at the free throw line. Anderson finished with 17 points and six assists and had himself something of a coming out party by playing strong in the post and knocking down the midrange jumper.
But the story of this game will be Duke’s play in the final two minutes.
“It was a new game situation for us and I though we handled it great,” Plumlee said. “That last two minutes we were so good. We weren’t good to start the game and I thought we played in spurts but in those two minutes I thought we were great.”
The last two minutes? Duke 3, Boston College 0.
Jimmy Kelley is the founder and lead writer of Devils in Durham. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsinDurham.