Brian Otskey (@botskey) is in Philadelphia for today’s Second Round NCAA Tournament games and filed this report after the Duke-Albany game.
Three key takeaways:
- Duke made a concerted effort to get the ball inside. Going up against an Albany squad that really lacks any kind of major inside presence, Duke was determined to get the ball to Mason Plumlee and operate through him. Plumlee scored 23 points on 9 of 11 shooting, dominating the Great Danes in the paint. Despite being one of the better players in the country, Plumlee averages just 10.4 field goal attempts per game. Although he only had 11 today, you could see just how much his success impacts the game. Duke is better off when it plays through Plumlee which also allows its shooters to get free for solid looks. Duke was better off because of it today, especially given the matchup. Duke kept Albany at arm’s length for the majority of the game but anytime the Great Danes challenged, Plumlee had an answer around the rim.
- Albany’s defense was terrible. Duke made 8 of its first 10 shots right out of the gate and never really let up. Part of that was Duke executing well offensively but Albany really didn’t challenge Duke all that much. Without an inside presence it’s hard to contain Plumlee and even Kelly cutting to the basket but the Great Danes allowed Seth Curry to get into a groove right away. Albany was slow to close out on Duke jump shooters an offered very little resistance in the paint. Duke dominated the game with 36 points in the paint to Albany’s 20. That was expected but the margin had to be a lot closer if the Great Danes were going to pull the upset.
- Duke’s senior leaders carried the team. Duke’s leading scorers, Curry and Plumlee, combined for 49 points and the senior duo shot a lights out 19 for 25 (76%) amongst themselves. Curry had it going right from the start, making five of his first six shots and finishing at 10 of 14 for the game. It’s going to be up to those two players, plus fellow senior Ryan Kelly, to carry the Blue Devils through this NCAA Tournament. Duke’s scoring depth is of some concern because Curry and Plumlee are not going to have days like this each and every night. Duke didn’t need them today, but underclassmen Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon also have to shoulder some of the scoring load as the Blue Devils drive deeper into March Madness.
Star of the Game: Mason Plumlee, Duke. Picking Seth Curry in this spot wouldn’t have been a bad choice either but I went with Plumlee because he was too much for Albany to handle inside and had the answer whenever the Great Danes tried to make a run and get back in the game. Plumlee scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half, most coming at key times when Albany was trying to get something going. Albany had no answer on either end of the floor for the Duke big man.