Just a day after having their best offensive game of the season, the Duke Blue Devils took on the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University and had their worst offensive game of the young season.
Duke shot just 41.7 percent from the field and was an underwhelming 3-for-15 from beyond the arc (this is a day after shooting 80 percent from downtown).
While some struggles were expected on offense, thanks to Shaka Smart's stifling defensive gameplan, it would have been a bit more reassuring if the Devils could have scored at least 70 points, and certainly more than the 29 points they put up in the first half.
Despite the lackluster performance at the offensive end of the court, the Blue Devils were able to emerge victorious thanks to their defensive play, which held the Rams to just 57 points on just 33.3 percent shooting.
Ryan Kelly actually managed to tally an impressive five blocks in his 38 minutes, while Mason Plumlee was once again able to haul in 10 rebounds and was a force in the paint.
Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon also had a nice game, tallying 12 points along with seven rebounds and a steal, while only committing one personal foul.
Duke Player of the Game
Once again, player of the game honors have to go to Mason Plumlee.
The veteran Blue Devils center posted his third double-double of the season, with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
He was also able to sink seven of his eight free throws and added a block on the defensive end.
Plumlee is undoubtedly the most important player for the Blue Devils this season and he showed us why again last night.
Virginia Commonwealth Player of the Game
Juvonte Reddic was the Rams' top player Friday night.
The junior forward scored 16 points on 8-for-15 shooting and was a force on the glass with 13 rebounds, including five offensive boards.
The Rams big man added a block and a steal as well, and played a very disciplined game, turning the ball over just one time and committing only one personal foul.
Along with Treveon Graham, Reddic was instrumental in engineering a comeback that saw the Rams pull within four points at 54-50 after being down by a double-digit margin in the second half.
Stat of the Game
That was how the Blue Devils shot the ball from the free-throw line last night.
The 88.9 percent mark was what clinched the game for the Devils. They scored 12 more points from the charity stripe than the Rams, who shot just 63.2 percent from the line.
Seth Curry managed to get to the free-throw line 10 times on the night and converted nine of his attempts, helping him finish with 15 points, despite a less-than-stellar night of shooting from the field.
If the Blue Devils can continue to get to the line 27 times a game and then convert 24 of those shots, they are going to be an extremely difficult team to beat.
What Needs to Improve for Game Against Louisville
In what is sure to be one of the marquee matchups of the young NCAA basketball season, Duke will take on the Louisville Cardinals in the Battle 4 Atlantis final Saturday night in Nassau.
With the Cardinals currently sitting at No. 2 in the country, it will be the second time in the Blue Devils' first six games that they will take on an opponent ranked in the top three (they beat Kentucky in Atlanta on November 13).
If they hope to come away with another noteworthy win, they're going to have to shoot better than 41.7 percent from the field.
They'll also have to be much better on the glass than they were against VCU.
Last night, they were beaten on the glass by VCU by a 37-to-31 margin.
That doesn't bode well against a Louisville team who leads the Big East Conference in rebounding, averaging an astounding 57 per game.
Containing Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng, who are averaging 10.5 and 8.5 rebounds per game respectively, placing them second and seventh in the Big East among individual players, is also going to be a task.
If they can do both of those things, they'll have a great chance at winning the Battle 4 Atlantis and jumping up another few spots in polls come Monday.
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