At the moment, Duke (12-1) has the second-best record among ACC teams (Virginia is 13-1) and they are winning the games they are supposed to win.
Lost in that was the play of Seth Curry, who seemed to have been in a slump even though an ankle injury may have been slowing him down.
Seth Curry started the season as Duke’s leading scorer, but for five straight games, Duke’s junior captain had failed to score in double figures until the Western Michigan game, last Friday, where he scored a season-high 22 points.
“It’s hard work paying off,” Curry said. “The last few games, I kind of struggled with my shot, wasn’t as aggressive as I should have been, and coach was telling me to hunt my shot and play more aggressive.”
Curry hunting his shot is probably a best-case scenario for Duke, especially as freshman point guard Quinn Cook seems to be on the verge of a breakout.
With the increased playing time of Cook and sophomore point guard, Tyler Thornton, Curry has been more assertive on the offensive end of the game.
He scored 15 points in Duke’s most recent game, a 30-point blowout of Pennsylvania on New Year’s Day after which Curry praised the play of Quinn Cook, who had six points and nine assists in that game.
“He sees the floor as well as anybody on our team, said Curry. He really pushed the ball up the floor, and it gives guys like me and Andre [Dawkins] and Austin [Rivers] a reason to run and get open because we never know when he’s going to find us. He’s doing a great job of finding us when we’re open and getting us shots.”
Cook has played admirably in both games, but to keep things in perspective, Pennsylvania (6-8) and Western Michigan (5-8) were not difficult to beat. His play is promising, however, with the start of conference play looming.
Duke has issues with turnovers that Cook and Thornton, more natural lead guards than Curry, should address. Not that Curry was that turnover prone with just 2.6 per game.
Coach K must have realized that Curry looking for his own shot outweighs him just running the offense. With Thornton and Cook, he can push the ball up the court faster and let Curry and the other shooters get to their spots for good shots.
“We had a chance to make that change just before the Christmas holidays for Tyler," said Coach Krzyzewski. “I think we played two games that way, maybe three. Then over the Christmas holidays we evaluated and Quinn physically is better able to do that than he was even at the start of the regular season.”
“He’s gotten stronger. His knees are better. He’s in better shape. He’s had more reps. So we wanted in these two games to take a look at alternating them. When we keep a fresh guy there we can push the ball and pressure the ball. Against these two opponents it worked well and we’ll see if it continues to work well.”
Duke averages 14 turnovers and 14 assists each game, which means that they are likely to turn the ball over after every assist.
If Cook continues his strong play (he averaged 11 points and 8.5 assists with zero turnovers in the last two games) Duke’s assists-to-turnover rate should improve positively.
Who knows, Cook may even give North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall competition for most assists in the ACC conference.