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December 1, 2012

Duke routs Delaware with a balanced effort

DURHAM, N.C.-- No. 2 Duke (8-0) began the month of December just like it impressively performed during the month of November.

Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Blue Devils took care of business in balanced fashion against Delaware (2-6), routing the Fightin' Blue Hens 88-50. Every player who entered the game scored for Duke, and five were in double figures.

"I thought we played terrific," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Sometimes in these situations, our fifth game in 10 days, and after that four-game in seven-day stretch, there's a chance for a let down, and we didn't have it. Our guys played hard and well the whole way, very unselfishly, played good defense and the crowd was great."

With senior shooting guard Seth Curry out of commission due to an ankle injury he sustained against Ohio State Wednesday, the Blue Devils were a bit short-handed. Curry's absence, however, did not slow down Duke in any way.

To begin the contest, the Blue Devils came out with a killer instinct. Scoring a quick four points right off the bat, Duke built an insurmountable lead in the first half to put the game away early. The squad went into to the locker room a halftime with a comfortable 42-19 advantage.

"I hope that's just our habit this year," senior forward Mason Plumlee said. "It's been that way from game one and even in the exhibition games, guys have been playing hard."

Plumlee and fellow senior Ryan Kelly continued their stellar play as of late, leading the team in scoring with 18 points apiece. Tallying his second-straight double-double, Plumlee also grabbed 11 rebounds.

Coming off a clutch 17-point second-half performance against Ohio State, freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon had 14 points and a career-high six assists, several of which he executed brilliantly to draw standing ovations from the fans.

On the other end of the floor, neutralizing Delaware guard Devon Saddler -- who came into the game averaging 21.4 points per game -- was one of the biggest keys for Duke. The Blue Devil backcourt did their part by applying disruptive ball pressure on Saddler, and forcing him to take difficult shots all afternoon. The only player in double figures for Delaware, Saddler managed to finish with 23 points, but it required 22 shots for him to accumulate that figure.

"I think we fought him," Blue Devil point guard Quinn Cook said. "Whoever was on him, whether it was Rasheed, Tyler, Amile [Jefferson] or myself, I think we made him fight all 40 minutes. He's definitely a great player, but we just wanted to make him work."

In addition to his defense, junior guard Tyler Thornton distributed the ball exceptionally well -- recording a career-high 10 assists -- while starting in the place of Curry. He also scored eight points and had six rebounds.

"The kid that gets a little bit unnoticed is Tyler," Krzyzewski said. "We can plug him in anywhere. He is a winner. He comes up with 10 assists and tough defense, and just such an easy guy to play with."

Given the lopsided score, Krzyzewski was able to utilize his bench more than he has in recent weeks, and the unit made the most of their opportunity to play extended minutes. Reserves Josh Hairston and Jefferson logged productive minutes -- scoring 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, collectively.

"It was definitely great getting out there," Jefferson said. "It was a total team effort. I was just really happy to be on the court for an extended amount of time, get a chance to make some mistakes and show what you can do."

It was an afternoon of firsts for two Duke players as well. Alex Murphy, who redshirted last year, registered his first points in a Blue Devil uniform. Playing the most minutes in his career so far, the 6-foot-8 small forward finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, one steal and one block, while showing some renewed confidence in his game and drawing spirited praise from the fans.

"It definitely felt really good," Murphy said. "I wouldn't say it's like pressure off, but it definitely felt good to see the ball go in and just help the team and build confidence. [After the first shot fell] you always do [feel more confidence]. Even next game, when that first shot goes down, it always feels good."

In light of his limited playing time so far this year, Murphy also dismissed the recent rumors of him potentially transferring after the game.

"I'm not going anywhere," Murphy said. "I love Duke. I love my team. I love my coaching staff."

Perhaps the best moment of the afternoon came at the 1:24 mark in the second half when senior forward Todd Zafiroviski -- a former walk-on -- scored the first points of his career on a layup, prompting the crowd to erupt. Zafiroviski also recorded the second blocked shot of his career.

With everyone contributing it was certainly a feel-good day for Duke, as it now sees its schedule lighten up considerably over the span of the next few weeks.

"I feel good about everybody's play," Krzyzewski said. "Everybody played well today. Everybody. Not one guy played less well than another guy. They were terrific together."


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