- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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ATLANTA -- Seth Curry was the last Duke player to come onto the court for a shootaround Tuesday afternoon.
He had a cameo or two on the court. But he didn't do much. Who knows how long he'll have to be a part-time practice player.
But the Blue Devils will deal. They have no choice. And if Curry continues to play the way he did Tuesday night against Kentucky, he can take as many practice possessions off as needed.
Curry was the Duke savior with 23 points -- a number of them coming during a key stretch in the second half when Mason Plumlee was saddled with four fouls -- in the Blue Devils' 75-68 victory over the Wildcats inside the Georgia Dome, which will also host April's Final Four.
Curry's injury is being diagnosed as some sort of leg fatigue, or shin splints; it clearly is affecting him.
"Coach did a good job of getting me out of the game to be fresh at the end of the ballgame," Curry said. "I'm trying to stay sharp with limited practice time, and my teammates did a good job of finding me since I haven't been around them as much as I usually am in practice. They did a good job of finding me and got me going with open shots, and that was key."
Curry played 34 minutes. He made all six free throws and converted 50 percent of his shots.
He isn't ever going to be his brother, Stephen Curry. Nor should he be. But Seth has finally broken free of Stephen's shadow in college basketball. If Tuesday night is any indication, then Seth Curry took control of this Duke team for the foreseeable future. Plumlee was sensational at times, spinning around the highly touted Kentucky big men for quality production in the post. But his foul problems were an issue. And Plumlee isn't going to lead this team from the post.
Curry can direct Duke from the perimeter. In the past two decades under Mike Krzyzewski, Duke has always had a lead guard who can get a bucket when needed, or at least make a play.
The Blue Devils still have a high ceiling. There is no reason to believe that, of the four teams in the Champions Classic on Tuesday, they couldn't return to Atlanta in April.
The potential is certainly greater for Kentucky with the freshman front line of Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein (assuming the Wildcats can settle on a point guard). Michigan State showed it has Final Four possibilities with the leadership of Keith Appling and the quick maturation between Germany and Georgia by Gary Harris. Kansas hasn't even scratched the surface of the potential of Perry Ellis and Ben McLemore -- certainly the Jayhawks’ possibilities are endless.
Duke is still the most intriguing of the four. Marshall Plumlee, whom assistant coaches are raving about, is still out with a stress fracture. Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson haven't figured out how to make significant contributions yet. Josh Hairston has found his purpose by getting to the offensive backboard. And Rasheed Sulaimon is playing like a freshman still, unable to find a consistent stroke.
But Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee and Curry possess enough senior leadership to direct Duke once again toward competing for an ACC regular-season title -- and after that everything is in play.
"Seth was terrific," Krzyzewski said. "He was the difference-maker. The fact that he's a fifth-year senior has to help. I'm so proud of him. He really hasn't practiced much. Since the start of practice he's had four practices. I'm shocked by the level of condition."
Curry started off at Liberty because he wasn't recruited at a high level. He averaged 20 points a game. After he transferred, he hardly made his mark at Duke during his year off. He was a role player in his first season. His role increased dramatically last season, but he had Austin Rivers to play off of on the perimeter.
Now it's about him. Of course, he won't take all of the responsibility.
"I think this is our three seniors’ team," Curry said. "That's what we've worked on in the preseason and having this be our team. It came to me and I came through.
"We're composed and been in games like that before," he added. "We had good composure at the end of the game when they made that run. We stayed real calm."