Duke Guards Feast on the Attention Placed on Mason Plumlee Inside

Posted by rtmsf on December 10th, 2012

Joe Dzuback is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Temple-Duke game in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

“How good can this team become coach?” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski did not want to answer that question. Superstitious perhaps, or having coached nearly 38 seasons in Division I, he knows how quickly a team’s prospects can change. “I have had some pretty good teams… [“one or two” someone whispered)] …we’ve done ok.” Anyone who had watched Duke dismantle Temple to the tune of 90-67 on Saturday afternoon had to know the #2 Blue Devils were better than “ok.” Previews of this match-up dwelled on the role Temple’s guards played in the Owls’ 78-73 win last season, and the Owls’ prospects would rise or fall on guard play again. Both teams play three guards, but the similarity ends there. Duke’s guards look like… guards. Quinn Cook is 6’ 1” and 175 pounds. Seth Curry, who still wears a boot while not on the court to protect his ankle injured in Duke’s win over Ohio State, stands at 6’ 2” and 185 pounds. Rasheed Sulaimon (dubbed “Sulaimon the Great” by a member of the press after the freshman hit his first three of the game standing about four feet behind the three point line) is a 6’ 4”, 185-pound beanstalk. Tyler Thornton is a 6’ 1”, 190-pound “sixth man,” and the only other guard on the roster.

Despite a lingering ankle injury, Duke’s Seth Curry launches a three from well behind the three-point line. He made this second half attempt.

Temple head coach Fran Dunphy favors taller, thicker wings who move seamlessly between point guard and small forward. Will Cummings, a 6’ 2” sophomore who plays the point for Temple this season, is the only one of the seven players listed on the Temple roster as a “guard” or more appropriately “guard/forward” who could pass for a Duke mold guard. Khalif Wyatt, at 6’ 4” and 210 pounds, and Scootie Randall, 6’ 6” and 225 pounds, are “Philly guards,” whose build and style of play reminds fans of the Big 5 of Diante Christmas and Ramone Moore, two of the wings developed by Dunphy since he moved over from Penn four seasons ago. They are all built like safeties and each is as likely to roll off a screen, catch and shoot a three, as he is to put the ball on the deck and drive the lane for a layup. Christmas, Moore, Wyatt and Randall, along with 6’ 5”, 220-pound transfer Dalton Pepper, grew up in Philadelphia or in one of the surrounding Delaware Valley suburbs.

Last year Wyatt, Moore and Fernandez carried the day for Temple. Saturday it was Cook, Curry, Sulaimon and Thornton’s turn. The quartet combined for 48 of Duke’s 90 points on the strength of 15-27 (10-17 from three) shooting. The six guards Dunphy played (Wyatt, Randall, Cummings, Pepper, freshmen Quenton DeCousey and Dan Dingle, along with senior T. J. DiLeo) combined for 45 of Temple’s 59 points on 19-49 (7-17 from three) shooting. Duke’s defensive plan was designed to take Wyatt and Randall out of the game by denying each the ball. “Make it hard (for Wyatt) to catch it,” according to Krzyzewski, and when he did, “don’t react to his fakes.” Frustrated quickly, Wyatt took a number of bad first half shots, going 2-10 before the break. The second half was no better as Wyatt continued with a 1-5 performance. Randall fared slightly better, converting one of four attempts in the first half and two of five in the second half.

The key to Duke’s outstanding guard play, however, was due to senior forward Mason Plumlee, who routinely drew at least two Owls on every possession. Especially dangerous when he took post entry passes, Plumlee would then have the option to turn to the basket or kick out to a waiting Sulaimon, Curry, Thornton or Cook on the wing. The senior forward, who is assembling the kind of season resume that will impress National Player of the Year voters, was held to a so-so double-double outing, scoring 16 points on 5-14 (converting 6-11 from the line) shooting and 14 rebounds. But lest anyone wonder why Duke is a top five team this season, it is without question dependent on Plumlee’s abilities inside.

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