Miller helps UNC Greensboro hang tight with Duke
DURHAM, N.C. – Wes Miller found some ways to beat Duke as a visiting player at Cameron Indoor Stadium. He discovered just how tough a task that is for a mid-major coach.
The former North Carolina guard lost his second straight game as UNC Greensboro's interim coach when No. 7 Duke routed his Spartans 90-63 on Monday night.
Miller stepped in last week after Mike Dement resigned under pressure and became the youngest coach in Division I, saying it "isn't an ideal situation to get put into a head coaching chair."
Yet he managed to keep his team in the game for roughly 15 minutes, before the Blue Devils overwhelmed them in the second half. The Spartans led for much of the first half, before Duke used a 29-8 burst after the break to pull away and beat them for the 10th straight time.
"In the first half, we were playing well, and when things are going good, it's easy to stick together and be bought into what you're doing," Miller said. "Tonight in the second half, they played really well, and the game got away from us."
Kyle Randall scored 12 points for the Spartans (2-10), who shot just 34.5 percent in the second half and went on to their seventh straight loss. Derrell Armstrong scored 11 points and Aaron Brackett finished with 10 for UNC Greensboro.
"When you have guys in the locker room that come together through adversity, it makes it easy on you as a coach," Miller said.
Freshman Quinn Cook scored all of his season-high 14 points in the second half for Duke (10-1). Mason Plumlee had 15 points and 13 rebounds and Austin Rivers added 14 points for the Blue Devils, who hadn't played since Dec. 10 and won't play again until Dec. 30.
"We didn't want to be laying on a bad win," Rivers said. "We wanted to leave a message and go into the break with good spirits."
The Blue Devils shot 54 percent from the field, shook off a sluggish start and overcame 18 turnovers to win their third straight since the one-sided loss at No. 2 Ohio State.
Duke needed an 18-4 run late in the first half to take the lead for good, and the Blue Devils then pulled away with their big burst to open the second half. Cook — who was 6 for 6 from the field after halftime — scored 11 points during that run, and his 3-pointer with 7½ minutes left capped the spurt and made it 73-42.
Andre Dawkins finished with 11 points, Ryan Kelly added 10 and Miles Plumlee had 13 rebounds to help the Blue Devils extend a few impressive streaks in their only game for a while.
They won their 41st straight game at Cameron Indoor Stadium — matching the second-longest streak in school history — while claiming their 91st consecutive home victory against nonconference teams and their 85th in a row here against unranked opponents.
Their next chance to extend those streaks won't come for another week and a half, when Western Michigan comes to Cameron.
"We haven't had that long of a stretch without a game, and I think it showed in the first couple of minutes," Mason Plumlee said.
The Spartans have never defeated Duke, losing the previous nine matchups by an average of nearly 40 points. To have any chance at pulling the season's biggest upset, they needed the Blue Devils to be rusty following extended time off for final exams.
And for about 15 minutes, that's exactly what happened.
UNC Greensboro led for a sizeable chunk of a disjointed first half in which there were a combined 24 fouls called and 35 free throws attempted. The Spartans forced Duke into 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes and made 14 of their first 27 shots before Duke finally got things rolling.
The Blue Devils hit 3s on three consecutive trips and Rivers had two of them — including the one that capped the run and made it 39-28. Kelly's 3 with 35 seconds left in the half stretched it to 45-34 and pushed the lead into double figures for good.
"We talk about it all the time. You've got to be really ready, and I don't think we were as ready as we needed to be," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "And then we got ready."