Will Rothschild is an RTC correspondent and can be found on Twitter @warothschild. He filed this report from the Duke-Colorado State game Wednesday night in Durham.
After eight games, the Seth Curry Point Guard Experiment is over at Duke.
While running through a trio of good-but-flawed teams that lacked both the defensive physicality and the experience to expose their flaws at the Maui Invitational, that’s exactly what happened to the Blue Devils in their 22-point beating at Ohio State last week. And among the most glaring truths that game revealed was just how far Curry has to go in his development as a point guard.
There is a long tradition of combo guards running the show at Duke under Coach K. From Johnny Dawkins to Jeff Capel to Daniel Ewing to Scheyer to Nolan Smith, Krzyzewski has never hesitated to rely on players who weren’t natural points to initiate the offense. While Roy Williams says he prefers to have three “true” point guards on the roster at all times and was known at Kansas to play two at the same time, Coach K has gotten it done at times with none.
Duke Is Still Searching For A Point Guard
So it wasn’t particularly surprising in November to see Duke’s starting five include three natural shooting guards – Curry, Austin Rivers and Andre’ Dawkins – and two forwards – Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee – while highly recruited true point guards Tyler Thornton and Quinn Cook watched from the bench.
“But,” Kryzewski said after Wednesday night’s defeat of Colorado State, “getting beat by (22) points will lead to a lot of things.” It appears the point guard rotation may be one of those things. Though he certainly wasn’t the only Blue Devil who struggled against the Buckeyes – Dawkins was scoreless in 19 minutes – Curry’s performance was troubling. He made just one of six three-point attempts with no assists and three turnovers. So there was Thornton, a sophomore who played just 9.9 minutes per game last year after picking Duke over Georgetown and Villanova among others, trotting out for his first career start Wednesday night, a move that sent Dawkins to the bench.
In an 87-64 victory, Thornton proceeded to tie his career-high with 28 minutes and four assists. He did not commit a turnover. Meanwhile, Cook, after playing just 13 total minutes in the three games in Maui, followed up a promising 14-minute appearance in Columbus with 16 more minutes against Colorado State, finishing with a pair of assists and, like Thornton, zero turnovers. More importantly, the Duke offense looked more cohesive as everyone seemed to pick up on Thornton and Cook’s passing mentality. Duke finished with 21 assists on 31 made field goals, and even Curry looked more comfortable as a distributor, setting a career-high with eight assists even as his shooting struggles continued (he’s now made just two of his last 11 3-point attempts). Clearly, some of this may attributable to the level of the opponent, but it was a remarkable change for the Blue Devils.
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