CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/ DURHAM—University of Pennsylvania guard Darren Smith swished a three pointer just nine seconds into his team's New Year's Eve contest against the Duke Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor Stadium Thursday night. But Duke guard Nolan Smith answered on the other end with a three of his own, scoring the first of his team-leading 23 points on the way to a 59-point Duke victory.
Smith wasn't alone: Five Duke players scored in double digits. Indeed, the contest versus the hustling but very outmanned and interim-coached Quakers often seemed more like a final workout for the Devils before a live audience in advance of next week's ACC play than an actual regular season game.
To wit, Duke outrebounded Penn 43-25 (and, more impressively, 24-10 in the first half), nabbing more offensive boards than Penn had defensive boards. Led by Smith's four threes and Jon Scheyer's triplet, Duke nearly shot 50 percent beyond the arc, compared to Penn's 21 percent. (Penn's Smith, who hit that opening shot, only hit one more, when his Quakers were down by 36 in the second half.) Schmingler-Duke's tripartite scoring machine of Scheyer, Smith and Kyle Singler-combined for 62 points.
It was bolstered by the Plumlee brothers, as tonight's game gave the Devils the season's first strong look at the Indiana pair. Among the guests were Denzel Washington (whose son is Quaker freshman Malcolm Washington), and the Plumlee's younger, taller brother Marshall—himself a hot recruiting property—who watched the action from but a few rows behind their favored team's respective bench. The brothers have struggled often since freshman Mason entered the lineup last month after a hand injury in a preseason practice caused him to miss the season's first six games. Since his Wisconsin debut, he's scored just 14 total points, while sophomore and starter Miles has scored only 25. Thursday, though, Mason bested his season totals with 18 points, adding five rebounds to Duke's totals. Miles, meanwhile, added 10 points and 9 rebounds. The Plumlees' defense seemed much improved, too, as well as their connection with their teammates-both brothers connected on several long distance alley-oops with guard Scheyer and forward Singler.
"He's getting further removed from that wrist injury," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Mason's performance. "We got significant playing time for all of our bench, and that helps. He missed out on that, and he'll keep getting better."
Penn is very much a program in transition following the recent addition of former Penn star Jerome Allen as interim head coach. The Quakers started the season 0-6 under Glen Miller, who was replaced following a five-point loss to Monmouth earlier this month. "These last two games for us have to be viewed as opportunities for us to get better," Allen said Thursday. "We still have the bulk of our season ahead of us."
Duke, too: The Devils play the ranked Clemson Tigers (12-2, coming off of a tight Tuesday victory over South Carolina State) Sunday night in Durham. After being the most winning college basketball program this decade with 294 victories, they've got a lot of winning to do in 2010.