NASSAU, Bahamas -- A few quick thoughts from Duke’s 67-58 victory over Virginia Commonwealth in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament:
Overview: Two weeks into the 2012-13 campaign, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski already has his squad in midseason -- or dare we say late-season -- form.
Mason Plumlee scored 17 points and Seth Curry added 15 to propel the No. 5 Blue Devils into the championship game of the nation’s toughest tournament. Duke entered the Battle 4 Atlantis touting a victory over then-No. 3 Kentucky. But Friday’s win against VCU might have been even more impressive.
Most teams have more than one day to prepare for the Rams’ full-court, pressure defense. It’s tough to simulate in practice and it’s a style that teams rarely face at any other point in the season.
Duke, however, hardly seem fazed, as Krzyzewski’s squad committed just eight turnovers. The Blue Devils took a 17-15 lead on Rasheed Sulaimon’s layup midway through the first half and never trailed again. Duke led by as many as 12 points in the second half.
That’s not to say VCU didn’t have its chances.
The Rams pulled within four points, 54-50, with more than nine minutes remaining. But they went through a stretch in which they missed seven consecutive free throws, including two that came on the front end of one-and-one opportunities.
The physicality of the game made it tough on the offensive end for both teams. At one point in the second half the schools combined for one field goal during an eight-minute stretch -- and that came on a putback of a missed VCU layup.
Duke improved to 5-0. VCU fell to 3-2.
Turning point: Quinn Cook’s layup with 8:13 remaining extended Duke’s four-point lead to six, 56-50. VCU’s Darius Theus missed a pair of foul shots a few minutes later and the Blue Devils capitalized with a pair of foul shots by Seth Curry that made it 58-50 with 4:58 left. VCU never mounted a serious threat after that.
Star of the game: Plumlee was a beast on both ends of the court for the Blue Devils. He grabbed 10 rebounds to go along with his 17 points. He was credited with only one block but also altered a slew of shots. Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham each scored 16 points for VCU.
Key stat: One night after going 13-for-22 from 3-point range in a victory over Memphis, VCU connected on just four of its 20 shots from beyond the arc Friday. VCU shot just 32.8 percent overall.
Miscellaneous: Curry has a chronic leg injury that often makes it difficult for him to play two days in a row. The senior toughed it out Friday, though, playing 31 minutes to get those 15 points.
Up next: Duke advances to play Louisville in Saturday’s title game. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. ET. VCU will take on Missouri in the third-place game at 7.