Section 17: On The Road Again

Duke took to the road last week, earning two conference wins behind strong team efforts. Let’s take a look back at last week before heading back into Cameron for Boston College on Thursday.

Duke 92-N.C. State 78

In their first visit to the RBC Center since last season’s defeat to the Wolfpack, Duke throttled N.C. State last Wednesday night with their best overall offensive performance since wreaking havoc on Kansas State in November. Nolan and Kyle combined for 40 points, despite poor shooting efforts from both, while Duke’s frontcourt of Ryan Kelly and the brothers Plumlee more than held their own against State’s amply talented frontcourt.

All nine players who checked into the game scored for the Devils, including freshmen Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston. Other than scoring from Singler and Smith, both Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins were solid contributors off of the bench, but faced limited minutes due to foul trouble (they combined for eight fouls).

What made this effort stand out was the performance of the young but promising frontcourt. Kelly was perfect on the night, finishing with 11 points on 4-4 shooting, hitting 2-2 from deep and collecting 8 rebounds. Miles emerged from a seemingly endless slump, collecting 11 points and 8 boards in 21 minutes of action—his largest chunk of playing time since playing Maryland at home two weeks ago. Mason continued his surge of rebounding excellence, scooping up 10 boards to go along with a modest 7 points on the night. Despite combining for 29 points and 26 rebounds, the trio of trees was more impressive on the defensive end. Mason had six (6) thunderous blocks, Ryan had two of his own, and all three held their own against State’s productive post players, which included Tracy Smith, Richard Howell and heralded freshman C.J. Leslie.

Duke 83-Wake Forest 59

One of the most painful moments in C-T’s tenure at Duke was the game at Wake Forest two years ago, when James Johnson’s layup with 0.8 seconds left gave the Deacons a two point win. We were #1, they were #4, they became #1; lots of tie-dye shirts were taken off, a lot of sweaty Wake fans danced to “Zombie Nation.” Walking out of the stadium was like a Polo button-up gauntlet for our small group.

But that was then, when Wake was pretty good. The “little brother” private university in North Carolina now has a purely abysmal basketball program under coach Jeff Bzdelik. On Saturday afternoon, Wake was coming off a 74-39 loss to Georgia Tech (apparently the Jackets are a defensive juggernaut now?). Despite their team’s sub-.500 record, Lawrence Joel Veteran’s Coliseum was 14,000 strong for the Blue Devils. Surprise!

This wasn’t the most exciting ACC matchup. Kyle and Nolan, as we’ve come to expect, put up a lot of points on a lot of shots—Nolan with 19 on 6-22 shooting, Kyle with 24 on 9-19. Mason contributed 10 rebounds with no points, Miles chipped in 8, and everyone was pretty bored after the first half.

Everyone except the majestic Ryan “White Delight” Kelly, who had a career-high 20 points on perfect 6-6 (4-4) shooting (that’s 10 straight field goals going back to the State game). Awkward mechanics notwithstanding, Kelly showed why he may be the most critical cog in our strategy going forward without Kyrie. He’s always been an excellent passer, but as a rediscovered threat from the perimeter RK will allow Nolan even more freedom driving outside-in. Leaving Kyle and Dre out there is scary enough, but Kelly’s jumper is released so high that it’s even harder to defend.

As fans, it’s thrilling to see Kelly fulfill the promise as a shooter he showed at the McDonald’s game. In the revolving cast of Kyle and Nolan’s third wheel, look for Kelly to pop up every few games now. Our opponents are going to be changing their defensive strategy after this performance…and it’s about time RK got some respect.