TOPS CLEMSON, FALLS TO N.C. STATE FOR FIRST LOSS
The ACC once again showed that it is the top basketball conference in the nation, as even the country's No. 1 team couldn't get through the conference schedule unscathed. After defeating Clemson 68-40 in a hard-fought defensive battle in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke suffered its first loss of the season, 84-76 at the hands of 20th-ranked N.C. State in PNC Arena. The Blue Devils were one of two remaining unbeatens in the country entering Saturday's contest the against in-state rival Wolfpack, but came away with their first loss in 16 games as N.C. State got a 22-point effort from C.J. Leslie and a 16-point, 18-rebound performance from Richard Howell. Their performances were enough to counter four double-figure scoring efforts from the Blue Devils, as Seth Curry scored a game-high 22 points, Quinn Cook added 17 points and seven assists and Mason Plumlee added his ACC-leading 10th double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Curry, who in the Feb. 16, 2012 meeting with N.C. State willed Duke to a late comeback win with 21 second-half points, didn't get a chance to play hero the second time around as he left the game with over three minutes remaining - and Duke trailing 73-67 - after suffering an ankle injury. Playing without senior forward Ryan Kelly the entire game, Duke would cut the deficit to four points with 2:07 remaining, but N.C. State had an answer for every Duke basket and maintained a two-possession lead the rest of the way.
The loss shifts the landscape of the ACC slightly, as N.C. State's perfect 3-0 league keeps them atop the conference standings. Duke, at 2-1, sits in a three-way tie for third place alongside Florida State and Wake Forest, trailing Miami which is ... (plays Sunday night). Up next for Duke is a home game against Georgia Tech on Jan. 17 followed by a road trip to Miami on Jan. 23.
The news was bad but could have been worse as scans revealed last week that senior forward Ryan Kelly will be out indefinitely to recover from a foot injury he suffered in the first half against Clemson. The door is still open for Kelly, who is averaging 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.7 blocks per game, to return later in the season. For now, however, the Blue Devils will have to make do without one of the most unique players in the country, a 6-foot-11 forward who is shooting 52.1 percent (25-of-48) from three-point range and has led Duke to a 105-13 (.890) record during his four-year career. On Saturday against N.C. State, Duke used the rotation of junior Josh Hairston and freshman Amile Jefferson in Kelly's stead, and the duo combined for 18 points and nine rebounds on 9-of-14 shooting. Look for more of those two and redshirt freshman Alex Murphy to shoulder the load until Kelly returns.
NOTCHES 1,000th CAREER POINT
Seth Curry reached a major milestone last week when he joined Duke's 1,000-point club, becoming the 62nd player in school history - and the second this season behind Mason Plumlee - to do so. Curry's 1,000th point came, appropriately, on a three-pointer against Clemson that was his first bucket of the game. Curry's career total sits at 1,028 points after the N.C. State game, ranking tied for 57th on Duke's career list. Including his freshman season at Liberty, Curry has scored 1,735 points in his college career.
NAMED ACC PLAYER OF THE WEEK
The news surrounding Ryan Kelly's foot injury overshadowed a notable accomplishment for the 6-11 senior forward, who was named ACC Player of the Week on Monday. Kelly, who averaged 20.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and shot .727 (8-of-11) from three-point range in the week prior during wins over Davidson and Wake Forest, is the fourth Duke player to win the award this season. Only twice in ACC history have four different players from the same team received ACC Player of the Week awards in the same season, the last of which came during Duke's 2000-01 national championship season when Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, Nate James and Jason Williams all received the honor. The only other team to match Duke's feat is Wake Forest, which had four different players earn ACC Player of the Week in 1975-76.
PLUMLEE NAMED TO WOODEN AWARD MIDSEASON LIST
Duke seniors Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee were named to the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list on Thursday, putting both of their names in the hat for the prominent national player of the year award. Duke players on the Wooden Award watch list is nothing new for the Blue Devils, who have seen a record five players win the award since it began during the 1977-78 season. Duke was one of three teams with multiple players on this year's top-25 watch list.
FINALIST FOR BOB COUSY AWARD
Sophomore point guard Quinn Cook was named a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award on Thursday, appearing as one of 20 finalists for the top point guard honor in the nation. The distinction is well-earned, as Cook averages 11.8 points and 6.2 assists per game while directing a Duke offense that outscores opponents by more than 17 points per game. He is among the ACC's top five in assists per game (2nd), steals per game (1.8, 4th) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7:1, 3rd). Cook is on pace to become only the fifth player in school history to average over 10.0 points and 6.0 assists per game, joining a prominent list that includes Dick Groat, Bobby Hurley, Jason Williams and Chris Duhon.
IS FAVORITE FOR NCAA PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Senior forward Mason Plumlee is the current favorite to take home the title of National Player of the Year this season, as indicated by ESPN.com writer Michael Rothstein's straw poll published last week. Rothstein, who has conducted the poll for five seasons, polls voters from the Associated Press, Naismith, Robertson and Wooden Award committees every two weeks and tabulates the results. Plumlee was the clear favorite, appearing on 54 of 63 ballots while receiving 30 first-place votes. As the voting system works, three points are awarded for a first-place vote, two for a second-place vote and one for a third-place vote. Plumlee totaled 126 total points to finish ahead of Michigan guard Trey Burke (99 points, 13 first-place votes) and Creighton forward Doug McDermott (97 points, 16 first-place votes). In the previous four seasons, the poll has been correct every year. Plumlee received the most points in four of the six regions, trailing only Burke in the Midwest region and McDermott in the Far West region.
Cook's growth at point guard vital for Duke (Winston-Salem Journal)
trending in right direction (GoDuke.com)
Curry takes leadership role for Duke (Raleigh News & Observer)
guards' friendship pays off in ACC games (Raleigh News & Observer)
play inside opens Duke's offense for 3-point attempts (Durham Herald-Sun)
OF THE WEEK
Jeff Borzello @jeffborzello
I think Louisville will move to No. 1 because that's how polls roll. But Duke has the best overall resume.
Based on resumes for who's No. 1 Monday, Duke is most deserving. Head-to-head win vs. Louisville, more quality wins than any one-loss team.
Waking up at 9am just so I can watch my Duke family play!! Watch out for my bro @jhairston15!! He ready to go!
Digital Network @theACCDN
Duke's @masonplumlee could be on his way to the Wooden Player of the Year Award. @JeffFischel breaks down his numbers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mG9-mX5pzfo&feature=youtu.be
@kville_nation Tents are looking good and the weather is looking even better! #kville pic.twitter.com/jG88QO3W
With the absence of senior captain Ryan Kelly, the duo of junior Josh Hairston and freshman Amile Jefferson stepped up to take his spot on the floor on Saturday against N.C. State. The duo combined for 18 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, surpassing Kelly's average of 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.