On Thursday afternoon, coach Mike Krzyzewski and his No. 4 seeded Duke Blue Devils began their NCAA title defense with a first round tournament victory over the No. 13 seeded UNC Wilmington Seahawks, 93-85.
It wasn’t the easy win many expected for the Blue Devils, but as we all well know by now, they don’t call it March Madness for nothing. NCAA Tournament games without even a little bit of drama – regardless of seeding disparity – are definitely not the norm and this one was no exception.
What’s most important for Coach K and his squad, is that they overcame the early adversity and got the win.
The Seahawks played the Blue Devils tight throughout the first half and held a 43-40 lead going into the break.
UNC Wilmington guard and leading scorer throughout the regular season for the Seahawks Chris Flemmings paced with 13 points on 6-9 shooting. He finished with 18 points.
For the Blue Devils, Brandon Ingram lead the way with 11 points while Duke’s leading scorer during the regular season, Grayson Allen, struggled to find his touch. Allen went 1-7 from the field but finished with seven points after getting to the foul line and converting five of six free throw attempts.
But whatever Coach K said to inspire his troops at halftime worked wonders and the second half was an entirely different story.
The Blue Devils stormed out of the gate on a 16-3 run to take the lead for good over the stubborn Seahawks.
The Blue Devils smothered UNC Wilmington defensively as soon as they crossed the half court line and forced the Seahawks into taking bad shots and making poor decisions on offense.
On the other side of the floor, Marshall Plumlee had an absolute monster second half for the Blue Devils. He took control beneath the basket and found pay dirt in the form of easy layups or trips to the foul line and finished the game 9-10 from the field with 23 points and 8 rebounds. However, Plumlee fouled out with just over two minutes left to play and that seemingly revived the Seahawks for a brief moment.
A Denzel Ingram three-pointer put the Seahawks within five of the Blue Devils, but that would be the closest the Seahawks would get.
From there the Blue Devils were able to connect on their foul shots at the end of the game when it counted the most and put the Seahawks away.
Next up for the Blue Devils is the winner of No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 12 Yale this weekend in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.