Duke's 110-58 win over Colgate last night was about as predictable as Saturday following Friday. Colgate was outmanned from the beginning. They played hard but so did Duke and the talent differential was significant.
Duke fans take that playing hard part for granted. But games like this can be minefields for top programs. It's easy for players to free-lance, for teams to take plays off, to fall into bad habits.
This virtually never happens to Duke. A number of other ACC coaches have told me over the years that one of the most impressive parts of Mike Krzyzewski's program is his ability to get his teams to stay focused and on mission against every opponent, no matter how lowly.
Kyle Singler says "Coach really stresses to us to take each game as equals. He doesn't want us to overlook games."
Duke led 44-28 at the half, a workmanlike efforts marred by erratic three-point shooting and an inability to control the boards against the visitors from the Patriot League.
Krzyzewski told his team at halftime that Duke was going to win but he wanted them to concentrate on playing well, not scoreboard watching.
Mission accomplished. "I was proud of the way we played in the second half," Krzyzewski says. "Let's be sharp. And we were sharp. We could have been looking ahead. We did not get sloppy at any time. We played defense hard all game. and we hit the open man."
Colgate shot 30.9 percent from the field, committed 26 turnovers and failed to have a single player hit double figures in points. Colgate coach Emmett Davis said "They force you to do things you don't want to do."
Any possibility that Colgate could keep the margin even remotely respectable disappeared in the early portion of the second half, when Duke alternated between jaw-dropping fast breaks and a barrage of threes. Duke outscored Colgate 27-8 in the first 6:31 of the second half, a blitz that included four three-pointers. The Blue Devils scored 50 points in less than 13 second-half minutes.
And they did much of this with Kyle Singler on the bench. Expecting big minutes for Singler next week, Krzyzewski sat him down with 14 minutes left and let him rest, a luxury he can afford with a 35-point lead. In fact, no Duke player played more than the 25 minutes posted by Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving.
What productive minutes they were for Smith and Irving. Each had nine assists and Irving did so without a single turnover. Through three games, the precocious freshman has 20 assists and only three turnovers. Smith has 22 assists.
Duke had seven different players hit three-pointers. After shooting 5-17 from long-range in the first half, Duke went 7-13 after intermission. Colgate played zone most of the game, picking that poison over the poison of trying to guard Duke man-to-man.
Colgate did compete on the boards, too much so for Davis, who noted that overzealousness of the offensive boards led to too many Duke transition baskets. "We couldn't handle their ability to push the ball and find the open man. And when they went up top, we couldn't stop that."
Krzyzewski adds "We just had more weapons. Once the threes started falling, the points just piled up."
Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry again had big games off the bench, combining for 27 points. Ryan Kelly got his second consecutive starting nod and set the tone early, with a dunk, a drawn charge and a block in the first three minutes.
Kelly says he thrives on doing the little things. "I'm more used to the play out there, the speed. I think I have a little bit of a knack for being in the right place at the right time."
It's important to keep in mind that this is a developing team and Duke moves up a class in schedule next week. "We're trying to get better," Krzyzewski says. "We've got work to do. But we're working really hard. Kyle and Nolan are leading the way. They're not looking for their stuff, they're looking for our stuff. That sends a strong message."
The bulk of the offense continues to come from the perimeter quintet of Singler, Smith, Irving, Curry and Dawkins. You would have had to have spent the last eight months off planet to be surprised at this development. Duke needs rebounding and defense from the post players and largely got that last night, although the Plumlees both fouled out, Mason in only 13 minutes.
Duke will need more minutes and fewer fouls from the big sophomore next week, an important sequence of games that will demonstrate how far this team has come and how far they have to go.
- Duke hasn't lost at home in November since November 28, 1981, when Mike Krzyzewski's second Duke team lost to Vanderbilt in overtime. In fact, this appears to be the only time Duke has ever lost at home in November, although the early records are sketchy on dates.
- Duke now is 2-1 against Colgate. The Raiders won back in the 1950 Dixie Classic, while Bill Foster's last Duke team evened the score in 1980.
- No word yet on whether Colgate wants a rematch in 30 years.
- The win extends Duke's non-conference home winning streak to 80 games.
- This was the only non-televised Duke game this season.
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