Amid the excitement of buzzer beaters and Dunk City, the sheer scoring threat Seth Curry provides for Duke got lost in tournament coverage. This is likely because he makes it look so smooth, so effortless. Nevertheless, when he’s on—like he was Friday night in a dominating 71-61 win against Michigan State—the Blue Devils have a chance in any game remaining, even against No. 1 seed Louisville on Sunday.
Curry set the pace in the first half (14 points), but broke the game wide open after halftime. After holding on to just a one-point lead at the break, Curry came out firing: he hit three-consecutive 3-pointers in the opening three minutes, offsetting a hot-shooting Spartans team and taking the life out of Tom Izzo’s club.
When he’s hitting from all areas of the court, the senior can have that effect.
Coming into the Sweet Sixteen matchup between two legendary coaches, Mike Krzyzewski and Izzo, it was widely assumed that the Spartans were the tougher, grittier team while the Blue Devils relied on finesse. That’s the general identity of the two programs, after all.
But Duke showed it can out-grind even a Big Ten opponent. Duke may lack evident toughness at times, but when push comes to shove, it can lock an opponent down. Coach K’s squad largely limited MSU’s offensive rebounding opportunities, did not turn the ball over and was absolutely scintillating at the free throw line (24-of-26).
Curry is not an elite defender by any means, but it appears, at least to the naked eye, that Duke locks in more when shots are falling. And they were against Michigan State, thanks to Steph’s little brother. The rest of the team went 1-for-9 from downtown.
Guys like Tyler Thornton, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee and, particularly freshman Rasheed Sulaimon stepped up at certain times, but the collective effort against the grind-it-out, efficient Spartans was nothing to scoff at. Duke was simply better, more focused.
Of course, when your star scorer is knocking down six of his nine 3-pointers, your team will always look prepared. (He’ll just need to do it one more time against No. 1 seed Louisville to reach the Final Four.)