Not often do you say a victory was disappointing but Duke’s 67-50 victory over the Davidson Wildcats was certainly not inspired or encouraging if you are a Duke fan.
Mason Plumlee without a doubt played his worst game this season. The Blue Devils National Player of the Year candidate who has been averaging almost 20 points per game heading in to Duke’s last non conference test before ACC play starts Saturday scored a modest 10 points and grabbed 7 rebounds while committing 6 turnovers.
Plumlee also got into a bit of foul trouble, committing four fouls. Fortunately for Duke they got solid games from point guard Quinn Cook and Ryan Kelly. Cook scored 15 points and Kelly put up a team high 18 while securing 7 rebounds of his own to help pace the Blue Devils who looked sluggish for the fourth straight game.
Davidson got 19 points out of Jake Cohen despite being in foul trouble for much of the game and only playing 19 minutes. Cohen was the Wildcats only player in double figures, but hustle, the stat that doesn’t have a measuring stick necessarily, clearly favored Davidson.
Duke has struggled out of the gate since their post exam break games and one has to wonder if their recent string of less than Duke-like play is a result of the choppy schedule due to exams and holidays or is more indicative of reasons to be concerned. The Blue Devils who have struggled on the defensive glass all year, were out rebounded 33-30 but it felt like much worse.
The Blue Devils only got 3 offensive rebounds and gave up 12 to the Wildcats. Duke also committed 12 turnovers and only had 8 assits as a team. Davidson is favored to win the Southern Conference and clearly a team capable of making the NCAA Tournament, but Duke should have won this game with much more ease than they did.
The reason they didn’t appeared to be a simple lack of motivation to come out and play the kind of basketball that helped propel Duke to the top spot in the national polls and make them among the favorites to be a Final Four contender.
Yet again the Blue Devils were unable to go to their bench a sign that in tight games and in conference play the likes of Amile Jefferson, Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee are less likely to see significant minutes or play a significant roll this season.
Duke got 10 points off the bench from Tyler Thornton, who at this point looks to be the only player capable, or at least who has the confidence of Mike Krzyzewski to come off the bench and produce anything close to a stat line.
On a positive note, Cook and Kelly’s performance has to been seen as encouraging as is Duke’s ability to beat a solid team without their best player playing up to his normal standard.
For now Duke fans can only hope this game was more of a rush shaking anomoly than a sign of things to come for the Blue Devils. Duke will take on Wake Forest in its first ACC action of the season. They will then will then play Clemson before heading to a high profile contest with an up and coming NC State team in Raleigh.
If the Blue Devils can’t figure out the cause of this recent funk, there undefeated record and No. 1 ranking may not be there for much longer.