The Duke Blue Devils defeated UNC Wilmington Seahawks 93-85 to open the 2016 NCAA Tournament on Thursday. After a sluggish first half, The Blue Devils exploded early in the second half to gain control of the game.
Marshall Plumlee came right out of the gate with a ferocious block in the second half. He set the tone for an extraordinary defensive effort. After only scoring four points, Plumlee dominated the second half, scoring 19 of his 23 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds, and three blocks before fouling out.
For the game, Duke held the Seahawks to 44 percent from the field. However, it didn’t start out that way. The Seahawks shot 51.5 percent in the first half. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils connected on 43.8 percent of their shots before the break. They struggled from 3-point range, making 3/10. However, they got to the foul line 13 times, making nine freebies.
If Duke wasn’t getting to the foul line, they were scoring on an assortment of lay-ups and dunks
The Blue Devils used a three-headed attack to exploit the Seahawks’ pressure defense. Grayson Allen scored 23 points, while grabbing 10 rebounds, and Brandon Ingram added 20 points, along with nine rebounds, giving Duke a much-needed inside presence.
Usually the Blue Devils rely on long-range shooting, but they finished 4/15 from 3-point range in the opener. Instead, they got to the charity stripe 43 times, making 31 freebies. From the opening moments, the Seahawks were in foul trouble. By the end, Duke had a 33 to 18 foul advantage.
Three Seahawks fouled out, including two big men. C.J. Gettys and Devontae Cacok accounted for three points, six rebounds, and 10 fouls. Their absence was felt immediately on the defensive end. That’s exactly when Plumlee took over.
The Seahawks had four players reach double figures, led by Craig Ponder’s 22 points. Chris Flemmings scored 18 for the Seahawks and helped keep the Seahawks in contention for the upset early.
With UNC Wilmington leading 43-40 at halftime, Flemmings scored 13 points, and got to the basket at will. Meanwhile, Denzel Ingram scored 11 of his 17 points in the first half. Ingram was part of a valiant attack from 3-point range too. Overall, the Seahawks shot 11/26 from downtown, but they weren’t able to make a crucial shot in the final minute.
Brandon Ingram had 11 points on 5/9 shooting in the first half. He played all 20 minutes, and chipped in with five rebounds. His 3-pointer to end the half cut the Seahawks lead to three points, giving the Blue Devils a boost entering the second half.
Grayson Allen and Matt Jones each had seven points in the first 20 minutes. Senior Plumlee discarded his face mask in the first half, and immediately had a two handed slam after returning to the game.
The Blue Devils will face the winner of No. 12 Yale Bulldogs and No. 5 Baylor Bears.