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March 22, 2013Quinn Cook knew going into today's match-up that Albany's guards were no slackers.
"We knew how good they were because we saw the game against Vermont [on Jan. 26]," Cook said. "In practice all week we've been just trying to work on keeping those guys out of the middle and just giving them no space."
However, it was Duke (28-5, 14-4 ACC), and its backcourt for that matter, that prevailed with a 73-61 win over the 15-seeded Great Danes.
Seth Curry led all scorers with 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including 2-of-2 from three-point range, to go along with six rebounds. Despite stingy defense from Albany, Curry found his stroke early and never lost it.
Albany was led by guard Jacob Iati, who scored 15 points on 4-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-4 from three. Sixth-man guard Peter Hooley backed Iati with 13 points of his own, going 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.
The Great Danes (24-11, 9-7 American East) shot a whopping 60 percent (9-of-15) from three in their losing effort.
"They took advantage of every open shot," Curry said. "It was a tough game to win. You just had to be alert, be strong, and just go about the pressure."
Ironically, it was Albany's leading scorer, guard Mike Black, who was held in check by the Blue Devils for the most part. While Iati and Hooley were effective, Black scored 10 points but shot just 3-of-11.
While Cook didn't light up the scoreboard by any means, it was he who was primarily responsible for limiting Black.
"We needed it from [Cook]," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He tried to play really good defense on Black, who's a tough out. He's a really tough out."
Cook also did his part in exploiting Albany's help defense, finding Mason Plumlee early and often under the basket for easy flushes. Plumlee scored 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting to go along with eight rebounds. His high percentage can not only be chalked up to his tenacity down-low, but to Cook's awareness as well. Cook finished the game with 11 assists, while no other player on Duke dished out more than two.
"It was my teammates setting screens," Cook said. "I was just trying to find guys open and I got them the ball. I was just trying to make plays for my teammates; that's all coach wanted me to do."
A modest Cook earned nothing but high praise from his teammates and coach following the game.
"[Quinn] gets going and it's really hard to guard a passer," Plumlee said. "I thought he played great. And that just made life easier for everybody else offensively."
"How well Quinn plays isn't determined by how many shots he makes and things like that," Curry said. "It's how he gets his other teammates involved, and I think he got us going, finding Mason, finding me coming off of screens and things like that."
Krzyzewski recognizes the progress Cook, a sophomore, has made over a one year span.
"He's had a terrific year for us. When Quinn is playing like that, we're just a better basketball team," Krzyzewski said. "He was in complete control of the game."
With the nightmare of last year's second round NCAA tournament loss to 15-seeded Lehigh inevitably in the back of every Blue Devil's mind, Krzyzewski's squad found themselves leading by only eight points with roughly four minutes to go.
This time, with three polished seniors in Curry, Plumlee and Ryan Kelly, to go along with the budding likes of Cook and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke held its ground.
"We're excited," Curry said. "That's the type of games we need to win. We just wanted to get past the first round. You gotta take it game-by-game and we knew this was a good team we were playing. Especially for our seniors, this was a game we definitely could have lost in the past."
"You've just got to keep your cool [in these types of games]," Plumlee said. "When teams get behind they aren't just going to keep doing the same thing that got them behind in the first place. They're going to make adjustments, and you have to be ready for them."
An early exit in this year's ACC tournament at the hands of Maryland, paired with last season's second round debacle and today's win over Albany that proved to be more difficult than imagined has the Blue Devils flying well under the radar.
But, while analysts and college basketball fans alike have been quick to anoint Louisville and Indiana as the clear-cut favorites to go all the way, are they sleeping on Duke?
"I think so," Cook said. "But that's how we like it. That's how it was in the beginning of the season. So, people can say what they want to say. We're just gonna take it one game at a time."
"Doesn't really matter to us what people are talking about," Plumlee said. "We're very confident."