Duke center Marshall Plumlee played a key role in Duke’s second-round ACC tournament win over North Carolina State on Wednesday, making the free throw that gave the fifth-seeded Blue Devils their winning margin and also making a key defensive stop late in the game. He finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks, surpassing his season averages in each.
He also played for the last 5 minutes 26 seconds with a broken nose after taking an elbow to the face from teammate Matt Jones while going up for an offensive rebound. After getting bandaged up and finishing the game, Duke was able to get his face scanned for a custom-built protective mask, which was delivered in time for Thursday’s quarterfinal against fourth-seeded Notre Dame.
But the mask clearly threw Plumlee off his game against the Fighting Irish. After picking up his third foul with 8:30 left in the first half, he flung it in anger.
Plumlee had little to say about his frustration with the mask when asked about it in Duke’s locker room after Duke’s 84-79 overtime loss.
“No excuses. I’m fine,” Plumlee said repeatedly, stitches and bandages still visible from his misshapen nose.
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski clearly saw that something was off, however.
“Well, obviously it didn’t affect him well because he played a great game yesterday, made not just the winning offensive play and free throw, but he made a winning defensive play,” he said. “He just wasn’t the same guy today. Again, I don’t blame him. If you get your nose broken, you’re wearing a mask, you know. … It just wasn’t a good day for him. I’m not blaming the loss on him.”
Affected or not, Notre Dame took advantage inside, with forward Zach Auguste having a monster game: 19 points, 22 rebounds. Fellow forward Bonzie Colson also finished with a double-double, with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Plumlee started the second half despite his three fouls and played about the first nine minutes before sitting. But 16 seconds after he returned to the court, he picked up his fourth foul, with the mask getting jarred loose on the play. After another brief rest, Plumlee returned and eventually drew two fouls to get to the line. His first free throw listed left until it barely grazed the very back of the rim, almost an air ball, almost a true brick. The other three were more on target but also missed the mark.
The end came with 3:12 left when Plumlee fouled Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson as he drove the lane. His night over with just two points, four rebounds and five fouls, Plumlee jogged to the bench, sat down and gently dropped the mask on the floor. The Fighting Irish took their first lead since the 3:05 mark of the first half on their next possession.