DURHAM When Alex Murphy came to Duke, he was a consensus top-50 recruit. After redshirting last season, he was a preseason starter this year but had played 14 minutes total in the seven games before Delaware. And that was frustrating, he said.
But against an overmatched Blue Hens team Sunday, Murphy logged 21 minutes, scored 10 points, grabbed seven rebounds and recorded a block and a steal as No. 2 Duke dominated from start to finish for an 88-50 victory.
The success that we're having and finally now becoming a part of it and developing the bench, in a game like today where everyone played well, it's hard not to be happy when we're doing this well as a team, Murphy said.
After Duke (7-0) used a 22-4 run to take a 42-19 lead at the half, Murphy and fellow reserve Amile Jefferson played the majority of the second period against the Blue Hens (2-6). Jefferson played 21 minutes as well, scoring 12 points and collecting six rebounds. Twice, he made strong moves to the basket, finished and picked up the foul. He converted one of the two ensuing free throws.
When my number is called, I just try to go out there and play hard, Jefferson said. I know I'm working, no matter if people are watching or know or not. I feel confident in my abilities. I know when I get out there that I can impact the game.
Murphy made the first basket of his Duke career midway through the second half, when Rasheed Sulaimon passed him the ball down low, and he finished with a layup. Until that shot went in, he had been 0-for-5 on the year.
It felt good, Murphy said of the first basket. It felt really good. I wouldn't say it's pressure off, but it felt really good to see the ball go in and help the team.
Because Murphy had been a preseason starter and drawn high praise before practices began-head coach Mike Krzyzewski said there were times last year he wished he could pull Murphy's redshirt-his lack of playing time had been puzzling. After the game, he was even asked about rumors that he would transfer.
It's not happening, he said. I'm not going anywhere. I love Duke, I love my team, I love my coaching staff, that's not happening. Don't worry about that.
While the Cameron Crazies certainly enjoyed extended looks at Murphy and Jefferson, Krzyzewski said after that he still expects his starters to play the majority of the minutes. All five average more than 30 minutes per game.
This is not like an AAU team or whatever, Krzyzewski said. You have to make sure your group understands its role. Mason's role this year is different from last year-he has to get a lot of minutes. To see Alex and Amile and Josh [Hairston] play so well today, that is great, but it doesn't mean that we are going to get this wave of substitutions and things like that.
Even while receiving more rest than normal, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee led Duke with 18 points each, and Plumlee pulled down 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. Seth Curry did not play to due a left ankle injury suffered against Ohio State, but Krzyzewski said he will be ready for Dukes next game.
Even if opportunities to play extended minutes wont regularly, Murphy said hell still be ready.
We have some games before the Christmas break here against teams where we have to develop our bench because that's obviously a very important thing to do, he said. Getting into February and March, you can't just go five or six, you have to have a bench to give guys a rest.
Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley
*After the win over Ohio State, Ryan Kelly talked about how he needed to be more aggressive with the basketball. Against Delaware, he did just that, scoring 15 first-half points on 7-of-11 shooting.
I need to be that way every game, he said.
*The left ankle injury that kept Seth Curry out of Saturday's game occurred off a baseline screen with eight minutes left in the game against Ohio State. He left the game but did return when Duke went on offense for the last 2:30 of the contest. He was subsequently taken out when the Blue Devils went on defense.
Curry's ankle injury is not related to the right shin injury that is expected to bother him all season. Despite both injuries, Krzyzewski said he expects Curry to play in Duke's next game vs. Temple on Dec. 8.
*Former walk-on Todd Zafirovski scored the first points of his Duke career late in the game. Prior to Saturday, he had appeared in 10 career games for a total of 21 minutes. He played six minutes against the Blue Hens, going 1-of-2 from the field.
That's my roommate, Mason Plumlee said. I was happy for him.
*Coming off of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament and Wednesday's win over Ohio State, Duke didn't show any physical or mental fatigue. The Blue Devils came out strong and had the game in hand by halftime.
Today was great, Plumlee said. I think it shows that we're a mature team. To come off of the Bahamas and Ohio State and still play like this is great.