Duke-Minnesota Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 21, 2012
Duke has recently been unstoppable in regular-season tournaments, and it will try to win its 21st straight such game Thursday against Minnesota in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas. Since losing to Marquette in the 2006 CBE Championship game, the fifth-ranked Blue Devils have won two Maui Invitationals, the 2K Sports Classic, the NIT Season Tip-Off and the CBE. They now turn their sights to the second-ever Atlantis tournament after an 88-67 home win over Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday, their 52nd victory in their last 53 games played in November. Florida Gulf Coast actually held a 30-29 lead in the first half, but Duke finished the half with a 23-0 run that eventually reached 30-0 after the break. "We were kind of all over the place," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "They hit 3s, and got layups. I thought they had a great game plan and once we settled down into a good half-court defense, we had that long run of 25 or 30 points without them scoring." Mason Plumlee scored a career-high 28 points while going 9 for 11 from the field and 10 of 11 from the free-throw line. Plumlee is no longer a liability from the line, as he's shooting 77.3 percent (17 of 22) after making 50.5 percent of his attempts during his first three seasons. "People can't foul him now," said Ryan Kelly, who scored 14. "He's hitting them, and that's something he worked on all summer, all offseason, to get better at, and it's shown." Plumlee and Kelly join Seth Curry to form Duke's star senior trio, combining for 52 points against Florida Gulf Coast and averaging 48.4. Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon also gave the Blue Devils a lift with a season-high 19 points while hitting 3 of 8 3-pointers. Minnesota (4-0) trailed Richmond 49-42 on Sunday but eventually rallied for a 72-57 victory in Minneapolis. Austin Hollins scored all 13 of his points in the second half and Rodney Williams scored a team-high 15 to help key the comeback. The Golden Gophers won their first three games by an average of 30.3 points. "I thought tonight's effort was really a good test for us," coach Tubby Smith said. "We needed a game like this to see how we would respond and our guys responded the right way." Senior forward Trevor Mbakwe continues to become more of a factor, and he recorded nine points and 12 rebounds while playing a season-high 27 minutes Sunday. He averaged 14.0 points and 9.1 rebounds in seven games last year before an ACL injury ended his season. "It was good just being out there for longer, getting a rhythm for the game," Mbakwe said. "I think my team did a good job of finding me and I did a better job of rebounding and on defense." Duke and Minnesota have split two previous meetings. The Blue Devils won 87-70 in the last matchup, which came in the regional semifinals of the 1989 NCAA tournament. The winner of this game will play No. 19 Memphis or VCU in a semifinal Friday. The other four participating teams are No. 2 Louisville, Northern Iowa, 13th-ranked Missouri and Stanford.
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