For the 13th time in Mike Krzyzewski’s storied career he is leading the Duke Blue Devils to the Elite Eight; and he has Seth Curry to thank for it.
In what was primarily a defensive game, Curry proved to be one of the few bright spots offensively scoring 29 on 8-17 shooting and 6-9 from behind the arc; as he led the Blue Devils to a 71-61 victory over Michigan State. The victory sets up a rematch with No. 1 seeded Louisville who Duke beat earlier this season.
The Blue Devils managed to pull off the victory with Quinn Cook having perhaps his worst game of the season. Cook didn’t score, had three turnovers and only two assists. Hardly a red-letter day for him. Tyler Thornton though did play well in relief and though he didn’t score he played tough and made a few critical plays.
Against Michigan State it felt like Duke was in complete control for most of the game even if it didn’t look like it. The Blue Devils applied terrific defensive pressure and held the Spartans to 40 percent shooting and 25 percent from behind the arc. They also managed to hold Michigan State big man Derrick Nix to only 9 points.
As expected the Spartans won the battle of the boards but not by that much– 33 to 26. That proved to be a big victory in the bigger picture for Duke who has not been a particularly good rebounding team.
The Blue Devils, Curry being the obvious exception, didn’t shoot particularly well only shooting about 40 percent for the game. Rasheed Sulaimon put on a strong performance in the second half finishing with 16 points. His aggressive, attacking style of play provided a much needed spark.
Mason Plumlee for stretches of the game was frustrating, missing more than one chip shot from close range and yet again finding himself in foul trouble. He managed to score 14 points and was a difference maker early on with his ability to get the ball into the lane opening up shots for others. The Duke big man also chipped in 7 rebounds as well.
Duke’s defense was the story of the game though as it seemed that they were at times swarming and imposing their will on the Spartans. Ryan Kelly who wasn’t particularly stellar for the fifth straight game played solid defense and blocked four shots and got seven rebounds.
Kelly’s shot continues to miss the mark from behind the arc, though he did manage to hit a couple mid range jumpers that perhaps could bring some confidence in the next game.
That game will be Duke’s biggest challenge of the tournament as Louisville has been playing arguably the best basketball of any team still playing. The Cardinals intense defensive pressure could, and likely will give the Blue Devils fits and unlike the first game, Louisville big man Gorgui Dieng will be playing and most everyone seems to think he could make the difference.
The only thing known is that the Cardinals are going to want a measure of revenge against Duke who defeated them 76-71 in the first meeting in the Battle for Atlantis Championship. Louisville beat No. 12 seed Oregon 77-69 earlier in the night to advance to the Elite Eight.
The match up will be a rekindling of the Rick Pitino-Mike Krzyzewski rivalry that began 20 years ago when Duke beat Pitino and Kentucky on Christian Laettner’s last second shot.
Duke is 11-1 in Elite Eight games under Krzyzewski with the only loss coming back in 1998 when the Blue Devils lost a lead to Kentucky. The game is scheduled for a 5 p.m. tip.
Stay tuned to the Duke Sports Blog for more tournament coverage and a full preview of the match up with Louisville.
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