Blue Devils Push The Pace

A concentrative effort to increase the speed of play in Durham is paying off as Duke moved to 12-1.

The Blue Devils want to go faster in the new year.

They played only two games during a 19-day span in December so it allowed time for them to become refreshed and for the coaching staff to reassess the team's direction.

The notion has become clear. The Blue Devils want to turn up the pace and the players seem to be fully on board with that.

"We're just going to keep pushing it and pushing it and pushing it, just kind of keep ramming it down them," guard Austin Rivers said.

That should increase the number of possessions for Duke, which tends to have enough skilled players at the offensive end to turn that into more production. In their first two games since Christmas, Duke has launched 63 and 62 field-goal attempts for the two highest figures of the season in that category.

"That can be a good thing for our team," forward Mason Plumlee said. "That's the most fun way to play and that's how we want to play."

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said there's regular tinkering with how the Blue Devils want to play. The emergence of freshman guard Quinn Cook has helped the Blue Devils become more versatile at the offensive end.

NOTES, QUOTES
--For two games in a row, the Blue Devils had a player go 4-for-4 on 3-point shooting. It was G Tyler Thornton's turn against Western Michigan. Then F Ryan Kelly did it against Pennsylvania.

The shooting helped Kelly to a game-high 18 points. It also marked the season-high total for Kelly, who had scored 17 points in four games this season.

The Blue Devils are prone to looking for the long-range shots. They've made nine or more 3-pointers in seven of their 13 games this season.

--Freshman G Quinn Cook has given the Blue Devils a boost a couple of times around the holidays and it might have been just a matter of time.

Cook dealt with a knee injury that lingered from high school and that limited him during the summer and in the preseason. In his past two games, he has scored a total of 30 points, which was one less than his total during the first 10 games of the season.

"It's really a matter of him getting stronger," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He's coming off a serious injury. He really didn't start practicing until October."

The Blue Devils like Cook's ability to push a fast tempo, giving them another weapon in that regard.

"We think we can keep a fresh point guard in there all the time," Krzyzewski said.

--The Blue Devils hadn't played a New Year's Day game since 1965-66 until they tipped off in defeating visiting Pennsylvania this season. It resulted in the 43rd consecutive homecourt victory, marking the second-longest streak in the program's history.

But next Duke must go on the road for back-to-back games at Temple and Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils dropped their only true road outing this season when they lost at Ohio State.

"The last time we were on the road we didn't do too well," F Ryan Kelly said. "We can't let that happen."

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 -- Total number of assists for G Quinn Cook against Pennsylvania, marking the most in a game for anyone on the Duke team this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everybody is playing so unselfish right now. We're going fast-paced and it's comfortable. I think that's why we scored so many points." -- G Austin Rivers on the Blue Devils, who scored at least 85 points in five consecutive games since the lone loss to Ohio State.


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--at Temple, Jan. 4
KEY MATCHUPS: This could be a good backcourt matchup, with the Blue Devils guards matching up with an effective Temple group led by Ramone Moore. Duke tends to be more interested in shooting 3-pointers and in bolstering the pace so that contrast will be something that could dictate the outcome.

--at Georgia Tech, Jan. 7
KEY MATCHUPS: The Blue Devils should have enough depth to overwhelm Georgia Tech in their ACC opener, especially with a backcourt combination that could put the Yellow Jackets in a bind. Duke also should have an advantage in the interior.

FUTURES MARKET: The Blue Devils might have another long-range shooter at their disposal with the emergence of G Tyler Thornton connecting from beyond the 3-point arc. The sophomore is considered largely a defensive whiz, but he has three games with multiple 3-point baskets this season. And by going 4-for-4 against Western Michigan on threes and 1-for-1 against Pennsylvania, he has hit five in a row. With 10 successful 3-pointers, he rates fifth on the team in that category.

PLAYER NOTES
--C Miles Plumlee grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds against Western Michigan on Dec. 30. That was the 113th career game for the senior, whose streak of double-digit rebound games ended at two games. In the next game, he played in his 100th victory with the Blue Devils. Duke is 100-14 in games in which he has played.

--G Seth Curry matched his most points in a Duke uniform when he scored 22 points against Western Michigan. But three seasons ago as a Liberty freshman, he had scored more than that so that outing against Western Michigan doesn't count as tying the redshirt junior's career high as a college player.

--F Ryan Kelly had time during the Christmas break to allow his ankle to heal. He had missed practice time in mid-December because of the ailment.


Blue Devil Digest Top Stories