PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — It sounds as if Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is putting together a screenplay: “The Maturation of Mason Plumlee."
So far the reviews have been great.
Plumlee scored 20 points and grabbed a career high-matching 17 rebounds to lead No. 5 Duke to an 89-71 victory over Minnesota on Thursday in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
The 6-foot-10 senior had four solid games this season before putting on an impressive performance against a team known for being physical and playing defense.
“Maturity is what you need to be this good," Krzyzewski said. “Most kids don’t figure that out. He has. And it wasn’t a case of him being immature before, he has just matured."
Seth Curry scored 25 points for Duke (4-0), which will face VCU in today’s semifinals. The Rams beat No. 19 Memphis 78-65.
Plumlee was coming off a career-high 28 points on nine-for-11 shooting from the field, 10 of 11 from the free throw line and had nine rebounds in the Blue Devils’ previous game, an 88-67 win over Florida Gulf Coast.
He was eight of 10 from the free throw after coming in 17 of 22 (77.3 percent). That is very impressive for a guy who shot 52.8 percent from the line last season and 54.3 percent and 44.1 percent the two seasons before.
“I’m in a role that I love and feel like I am in control and confident in myself and my team," Plumlee said. “I think guys like Quinn (Cook) stepping up playing great and Ryan (Kelly) is playing better too. I think everything is heading in the right direction."
Sophomore point guard Quinn Cook had a career-high 17 points for the Blue Devils who extended their regular-season tournament winning streak to 21 games, a run that stretches to the championship game of the 2006 CBE Classic.
“My job is to communicate with everybody and be a leader," Cook said. “My teammates have confidence in me and know I can do what I have to when things break down."
Ryan Kelly had 14 points for Duke and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon, the fifth starter, added 11. The only points scored by a non-starter were the two from Amile Jefferson. Only four reserves played for Duke.
“We’re not going to score that much from our bench, that’s not what those guys have to do when they get in the game," Krzyzewski said. “It doesn’t always have to be a certain way. These guys come in to make the hustle plays, rebound, defend. Do what we need to be done."
Rodney Williams had 16 points for the Golden Gophers (4-1), who just couldn’t cut into the Blue Devils’ lead in the second half.
“I think we had a couple of lapses on defense," Williams said. “Duke hit some big shots in the second half when we were playing good defense."
Duke’s lead ranged from 10 to 13 points throughout most of the second half. Minnesota, a team known for its toughness and defense, met its match in the Blue Devils, who were just as physical as the Gophers, and were more so through the last 5 minutes when Duke pulled away.
“K’s teams are always hard to play and that means they are hard to beat," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. “Plumlee is really good."
In other games on Thursday:
No. 2 Louisville 51
Northern Iowa 46
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Russ Smith scored 16 points and Louisville overcame a terrible offensive effort for a victory over Northern Iowa in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Cardinals had a bad first half, looked as if they straightened things out but then stumbled to the finish.
No. 13 Missouri 78
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas —Laurence Bowers scored 19 points, as usual most were in the second half, and grabbed 10 rebounds as Missouri beat Stanford in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Bowers, who had 13 points in the second half, has scored more points after halftime in every game this season for the Tigers (4-0).
No. 17 Gonzaga 57
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk each scored 13 points to help Gonzaga beat Clemson in a first round game at the Old Spice Classic. Olynyk was in the starting lineup after missing the previous three games due to a violation of the student code of conduct. The junior forward, who had his first two shots blocked, also had three rebounds.
No. 19 Memphis 65
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas —Treveon Graham scored 26 points and Rob Brandenberg added 15, including two late 3-pointers, and VCU beat Memphis in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Rams used their frenetic style of play to take a 16-point lead in the first half only to see the Tigers pull to 63-61 with 4:05 to play. VCU then went on an 11-0 run with all the points scored by Graham and Brandenberg.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Justin Cobbs scored four of his 21 points in the final 71 seconds, Allen Crabbe had 15 points and California rallied from nine points down in the final seven minutes to beat Drake in an opening-round game of the DirecTV Classic. Richard Solomon had 10 points for the Bears (4-0) before fouling out in the final seconds. Each of Cal’s first three wins was decided by margins of 11 or more points.