ACC basketball: Duke 78, Montana 58
By Bret Strelow
DURHAM ó Miles Plumlee soared for an alley-oop dunk in the closing minutes, and Duke players darted away from the bench to greet him once Montana called timeout.
Kyle Singler jumped to bump shoulders with Plumlee but then tripped and fell to the floor.
The Blue Devils’ execution started to slip only at the end of a grueling eight-day stretch.
Four players scored in double figures to lead 10th-ranked Duke to a 78-58 victory against Montana on Sunday afternoon at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils (6-0) edged visiting Rhode Island a week earlier and won twice in New York to claim the 2K Sports Classic title.
They faced the Grizzlies (2-2) roughly 40 hours after beating Michigan.
“I think it capped off a great week for us,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Eight days, four games, three and a half days you’re in New York, not a lot of practice time. I thought our kids played hard for all four games, and they played hard again today.”
Nolan Smith and Gerald Henderson scored 14 points apiece as Duke played without backup point guard Greg Paulus, who has a bruised forearm. Singler had 13 points, and Jon Scheyer added 12.
Paulus hurt his right arm while drawing a charge two days before the Rhode Island game. He totaled eight points in 52 minutes during victories against the Rams, Southern Illinois and Michigan.
An MRI taken Saturday revealed that the injury isn’t more serious.
“Hopefully he won’t be out much more than today,” Krzyzewski said Sunday.
Scheyer and freshman Elliot Williams handled some of the ball-handling duties with Paulus confined to the bench.
Williams replaced Smith three minutes into the game, and Smith returned to the lineup 96 seconds later. The Blue Devils faced a 13-9 deficit following a 3-pointer from Montana’s Jack McGillis and responded with a 22-4 run.
“At the start of the game, I don’t think I was ready, and he could tell,” Smith said of Krzyzewski. “He took me out early and told me to get ready, that I’m getting ready to go back. From there on I was ready. I know he’s going to be hard on me and coach me every game.”
Smith scored 12 consecutive Duke points during a burst that produced a 36-20 lead.
He started his personal run with a 3-pointer, made a floater and then converted a steal into a fastbreak dunk. He hit a jumper and drilled a step-back 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down.
“He’s in a tough position, and it wears on you mentally, not just physically, when you’re responsible for running a team,” Krzyzewski said. “Last year he didn’t have to do this as the primary guy, and all of a sudden it’s his fourth game in a week.
“Greg couldn’t either play for him or with him, and I got on him a little bit, like, ‘Remember what’s going on today.’ I thought he responded really well.”
Duke led by as many as 20 points in the first half, but Montana closed to within 54-41 early in the second half. The Grizzlies didn’t score in the next four minutes.
The only drama in the final minutes involved Singler, who grabbed his left knee after taking the embarrassing spill.
“I was happy for Miles because he had made a nice play, and I just came down wrong and hit the deck,” Singler said with a laugh.
Plumlee blamed the mishap on teammate Brian Zoubek, who accepted no responsibility.
“Maybe it was a wet floor,” Zoubek said. “I’m innocent.”