Here are three things we learned from No. 2-seed Duke’s 66-50 win over 7th-seeded Creighton on Sunday:
1. Duke needs a third star in every game, if it harbors serious dreams of another NCAA title
The Blue Devils may be highly ranked and well regarded in national circles, but there isn’t a “vintage” quality to the club, either.
The legitimate worries with depth, scoring prowess and overall size were somewhat obscured against Creighton on Sunday … thanks to the contributions of Mason Plumlee (10 points), Seth Curry (17 points) and enigmatic guard Rasheed Sulaimon (21 points).
But it still doesn’t lessen the need for more offensive balance as the tourney presses on.
Basically, 19 of 49 shooting (39 percent) and nine total assists won’t cut it against the likes of Michigan State, Louisville, Kansas or Indiana (all Sweet 16 entrants). But here’s something that might: Six Duke players tallied between four and six rebounds against Creighton, which shot 30 percent for the night. (Ugh!)
As for Sulaimon (three games of 20-plus points this season), his three triples and eight free throws were a welcome sight for the Blue Devils, especially when Ryan Kelly (one point, four rebounds) is a virtual non-factor.
Since his 36-point explosion against Miami on March 2, the Duke center/forward has scored a grand total of 43 points in the ensuing five games — with stagnant or declining tallies from each successive outing.
2. Doug McDermott likely didn’t embrace the silver-lining portion of his rough night, going 12 for 12 from the charity stripe
From the get-go, McDermott (21 points of 4 of 16 shooting from the field) was woefully out of sync with his shooting touch, whether it was having too much ooomph on long jumpers or too much momentum on driving layups, amid Duke defenders.
Either way, McDermott picked the wrong day to field one of the worst shooting efforts of his brilliant career. In fact, Sunday marked only the fifth time all season that he had connected on fewer than five field goals — an impressive feat, even in hollow defeat.
Unfortunately, McDermott’s teammates could not compensate for his shooting misery, as no other Bluejay scored in double figures … or buried more than one 3-pointer against the Blue Devils.
Will this setback have any affect on McDermott’s decision to return for his senior season, bypassing the pro ranks one more time? Time will tell, of course; but this might have been his best shot at snagging a Sweet 16 invitation.
3. You knew it would be a bad night for Creighton when …
The Bluejays had only two field goals in the first 10 minutes, and McDermott bore the look of a mortal shooter against the Blue Devils’ pressure defense.
3a. You knew it’d be a good night for Duke when …
Tyler Thornton’s 24-foot prayer from the right side was answered, just milliseconds before the first-half buzzer rang. Thornton (eight points) now has 29 triples for the season.