No. 5 Duke beats VCU 67-58 at Battle 4 Atlantis

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 23, 2012
VCU is used to creating havoc on the court with its defense that goes by that name. It didn't work against No. 5 Duke on Friday night but the Rams haven't faced a team with the big players who could withstand that pressure. Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly, the two biggest players in Duke's rotations, helped throughout the game against the fullcourt pressure of the Rams and the Blue Devils managed a 67-58 victory in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Rams coach Shaka Smart wasn't happy with his team's execution of the press but he was impressed with the way the Blue Devils handled it. ''We weren't disciplined enough with our pressure,'' Smart said. ''Plumlee and Kelly were good breaking the pressure. They came back and handled the ball. Give Duke credit for preparing for the pressure and executing.'' VCU hurt itself at the free throw line, missing seven straight at one point in the second, two the front end of 1-and-1s. Juvonte Reddic had 16 points and 13 rebounds for VCU while Treveon Graham scored 16 points. The Rams finished 4 for 18 from 3-point range, just better than Duke's 3-for-15 effort from beyond the arc. Both Reddic and Graham said it was a physical game. ''We knew that coming in that it was going to be that type of game,'' Reddic said. The Rams said playing games on consecutive days wasn't a factor. ''We weren't tired. We do it every day in practice,'' Darius Theus said. ''We just have to do things harder.'' The 6-foot-10 Plumlee and the 6-11 Ryan Kelly became the valves to make sure things didn't get to be too much for the guards. ''These guys played with so much poise, two turnovers total between them,'' Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. ''I am most proud of how they handled players who were quicker and again, they showed that poise.'' Plumlee had 17 points and 10 rebounds against the Rams, a day after getting 20 points and 17 rebounds in the opening-round win over Minnesota. He brought the ball across midcourt several times in each half. Kelly inbounded the ball whenever the VCU scored, the only time the Rams set up the fullcourt pressure. ''I felt I was holding my own,'' Kelly said. ''More than that,'' Krzyzewski added. Both teams played good defense and made it tough to score. Both teams combined four field goals over the final 8 minutes and half of those came in the final 17 seconds. ''They're really good, not good, really good,'' Krzyzewski said about VCU. ''They play tough defense full court and in the halfcourt. They have a lot of pieces. We were strong with the ball. 'There were no possessions off for any team.'' All five Duke starters scored at least nine points and they accounted for all but three of the Blue Devils' total. On Thursday the starters accounted for all but two points. Seth Curry had 15 points for Duke (5-0) and was 9 of 10 from the free throw line, where the Blue Devils finished 24 for 27. The Rams (3-2), who beat No. 19 Memphis 78-65 in the first round, hurt themselves at the line, going 12 for 19. The seven misses all came in a row from the 7:55 mark until there was 2:23 remaining. Two of the misses were the front end of 1-and-1s. ''We had the guys we wanted at the free throw line, our best free throw shooters,'' Smart said. ''This game wasn't lost with missed free throws. We weren't disciplined enough with our pressure. ''Plumlee and Kelly were good breaking the pressure. They came back and handled the ball. Give Duke credit for preparing for the pressure and executing.'' Both Reddic and Graham said it was a physical game. ''We knew that coming in that it was going to be that type of game,'' Reddic said. Duke held a 44-32 lead with 15:45 remaining but Graham and Reddic combined for 14 points to get the Rams within 54-50 with 9:20 to play. Both teams struggled to score the rest of the way but Duke closed the game by making all eight free throws and adding Plumlee's power dunk with 17 seconds to play. Rasheed Sulaimon had 12 points for Duke, while Kelly added 11 and Quinn Cook had nine points and nine assists. ''I thought Quinn has played two terrific games here,'' Krzyzewski said. Duke withstood VCU's pressure, committing just eight turnovers and the Blue Devils outrebounded the Rams 41-34. ''Our pressure was good in spurts,'' Theus said. ''But against a great team you have to do it for 40 minutes.''
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