Duke Basketball: 10 Things We Learned from the Win over Boston College
In what was an eventful day for the Duke basketball team, the Blue Devils finished it off by stealing a road victory over Boston College.
After being delayed due to inclement weather, Duke made the trip to Boston, MA on Sunday afternoon and faced off against Boston College just a few hours later.
With big plays down the stretch and a huge defensive stop on the game's final possession, Duke escaped in a 62-61 win.
Here are 10 things we learned from the win over Boston College.
1. Mason Plumlee Found His Touch
Prepare yourself for this statement because I don't think Duke fans ever thought it would be possible—Mason Plumlee won a game at the free-throw line.
In the words of Ricky Bobby: "THAT JUST HAPPENED."
Plumlee began the year with strong free-throw shooting but saw his production dip once ACC play began.
Then, the senior forward had a strong performance against NC State, going 12-for-16 at the line.
He followed that up by making 7-of-10 free-throws against Boston College, which included three clutch free throws in the final minute to lead the Blue Devils to a victory.
Duke fans should be excited to know that Plumlee has it in him to step to the line and knock down shots when the game is on the line.
2. The Blue Devils Have 3 Clutch Scorers
Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry have proven on multiple occasions this season that they can make plays down the stretch in close games for the Blue Devils.
Now, Quinn Cook has become another option at the end of the game for his team.
As Maxwell Oden of Bleacher Report says, "Cook has earned the distinction of an elite clutch performer."
Cook's three-point bucket with 1:58 remaining in the game closed the deficit to two points and put Duke in a position to retake the lead in the final minute.
Even during a poor-shooting performance, Cook has shown that he can be counted on in the clutch.
3. Boston College Is on the Rise
The Eagles have lost the last two home games to teams atop the ACC standings by a combined two points.
Boston College lost to Duke by a score of 62-61 and suffered a heartbreaking 60-59 defeat to Miami on January 16.
The Eagles have four underclassmen averaging double-figures in scoring and Ryan Anderson and Olivier Hanlan are rising stars in the ACC.
This team is growing in confidence and experience and they have a good chance to make some noise next season. It has been a difficult transition, but Steve Donahue has things going in the right direction for Boston College.
4. Inbounds Plays Need Improvement
On two different occasions in the second half, Duke gave up uncontested baskets on inbounds plays coming out of timeouts.
For a team that is known for its mental toughness and preparation, this is something Mike Krzyzewski and his staff will need to address going forward.
Giving up easy baskets coming out of timeouts is unacceptable, particularly in tournament play when the importance of each possession becomes more critical.
Whether it was a lack of communicating, effort or preparation, fixing the issues of defending inbounds plays will be a top priority for the Blue Devils.
5. Rasheed Sulaimon Can't Have Bad Shooting Nights
Prior to Ryan Kelly's injury, Rasheed Sulaimon was able to pick his spots in the Duke offense and capitalize on the opportunities created by opposing teams focusing on other players.
Now, Sulaimon is receiving more defensive attention and he's had to work harder to get open looks for himself.
He appears to have recovered from his midseason shooting slump, which is good for the Blue Devils because they badly need his offense.
Sulaimon had a quiet night against Boston College, scoring only four points on 1-of-6 shooting. His lack of production was nearly a deciding factor in the final outcome of the game.
It's a lot to ask of a freshman, but Sulaimon will need to be a consistent scorer for Duke to have success down the stretch.
6. Josh Hairston Was Needed
Prior to the game, Mike Krzyzewski told Bob Harris of Duke's radio team that Josh Hairston would only be used in an emergency role in the Boston College game.
Hairston is recovering from an arm infection that developed after he sustained a cut during the game against Wake Forest on January 30 (SI.com)
However, Krzyzewski must have felt the need to insert Hairston into the lineup because the junior forward played 17 minutes for the Blue Devils.
Hairston will not fill up the stat sheet, but he is the type of player that brings great energy and has shown a knack for taking charges, which he did late in the second half in this game.
7. Olivier Hanlan Is the Best Freshman in the ACC
Prior to the beginning of the ACC season, I predicted Rasheed Sulaimon would be the best freshman in the ACC and TJ Warren would be right behind him.
Sulaimon and Warren have been very good, but Olivier Hanlan has been the most impressive freshman in the league this season.
Hanlan is averaging nearly 14 points per game and almost led the Eagles to a victory over one of the top teams in the country.
He won't receive a great deal of attention because he plays for Boston College, but Hanlan is one of the big reasons why the future looks very promising in Chestnut Hill.
8. The Blue Devils Won a Game with Defense
In Duke's two losses this season, the Blue Devils struggled to come up with defensive stops against NC State and Miami.
When Duke needed stops in the final minute against Boston College, they were able to get the job done and make enough plays to win the game.
It wasn't pretty, but it was the type of grind-it-out game that should help Duke come March.
This performance helps give the Blue Devils confidence that they can win games even when they don't shoot the ball particularly well and have to rely on their defense.
9. Tyler Thornton Is Maddening to Watch
Similar to Josh Hairston, Tyler Thornton is a player who always makes an impact on the game even if it doesn't show up in the box score.
However, there are times when Thornton makes plays that make Duke fans throw their hands up in excitement, and then throw things in disgust.
In one sequence during the second half against Boston College, Tyler Thornton made a great steal only to turn around and give the ball right back to the Eagles.
It's these types of moments that make it a rollercoaster experience to watch Thornton on the court.
10. Road Wins Are Ugly in the ACC
It may not be pretty, but coming away with the win was the most important thing of the day for Duke.
In a week that saw the three teams ranked ahead of Duke in the polls all lose conference games on the road, the Blue Devils appeared to be the next team to fall victim to a road upset.
Fortunately for Duke fans, Mason Plumlee and his teammates were able to make just enough plays to get the win.
It wasn't an impressive performance, but it still counts as a win in the standings, which keeps Duke within striking distance of Miami.