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Duke 85 Boston College 62

As Duke pulls away in the second half.

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Marshall Plumlee defends against BC's Olivier Hanlan
Marshall Plumlee defends against BC's Olivier Hanlan
Lance King/Getty Images

Duke began the 2015 calendar year the same way they ended 2014, with a decisive win over a game but over-matched opponent.

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The difference of course is that Saturday;s opponent was Boston College, an ACC opponent that found itself on the wrong end of an 85-62 score, Duke’s 13th double-digit win of the season.

It was the first ACC game for four Duke freshman and one of them, Tyus Jones, noticed the difference. "Everyone is zero-zero. It’s almost like a new season. They were fighting for sure, never gave up, came after us on every play."

The visitors led only once, at 2-1. But they stayed close for much of the first half, outfighting Duke for loose balls and slowing Duke down defensively.

Mike Krzyzewski credited Boston College coach Jim Christian’s defensive game plan, mixing zones---including a rare 1-1-3--with man-to-man, sometimes in the same Duke possession. "They were throwing different looks at us and I thought it stood us up at the beginning. Then we adjusted well to it."

Much of that defensive subterfuge was designed to slow down Jahlil Okafor. Good luck with that. Okafor simply dominated the game, again almost single-handedly getting the opposition’s big men in foul trouble and getting Duke into the bonus early.

But Okafor added a new wrinkle. A 50 percent foul shooter coming into the game, Okafor made all nine of his first-half foul shots.

A Quinn Cook 3-pointer put Duke up for good at 7-4. But it was still close as late as the seven-minute mark of the first half, when a Patrick Heckmann lay-up made the score 25-20.

Then Duke’s defense took over, holding Boston College scoreless until their final possession of the half, one empty possession after another.

The defensive highlight came with just over a minute left in the half, when Rasheed Sulaimon thwarted several drive attempts by Boston College’s star guard Olivier Hanlan, eventually forcing a shot-clock violation.

The half ended 38-22 and Mike Krzyzewski said it could have been a bigger gap."I thought our defense in the last eight or ten minutes of the first half was unbelievable. If we hit some open shots during that time, even though we had a 16-point lead, I thought we could have really extended it."

Duke took its foot off the defensive gas pedals at the beginning of the second half, prompting a displeased Krzyzewski to call to a time-out two minutes into the second half, with Duke up 44-29.

"Then in the second half they played so well. We scored too. But it took us awhile to regain that intensity defensively. . . . We were scoring and it was like, we were okay, because we were going to score and they were going to score. It’s human nature. You’ve got to battle it. They’re not going to lie down and die for you."

Ty Jones said Duke got the message. "We had to eliminate easy shots. They were getting some straight-line drives to start the second half. We had to eliminate those and force them into tough shots."

Duke settled down and outscored Boston College 17-3 to build a 67-43 lead that they nursed the rest of the game.

It got chippy in the second half. Boston College’s clearly-frustrated seven-footer Dennis Clifford took a cheap shot at Okafor at 56-43 and was assessed a flagrant foul and the Eagles picked up a technical later in the game.

If Boston College was expecting to rattle Okafor, they came up empty. "I know they’re looking to play me really hard," Okafor said. "They were definitely being physical. I’m a freshman, so maybe they wanted to see if I was going to back down. It wasn’t a big deal to me."

Krzyzewski agreed. "He has a toughness but he doesn’t show it. Jah is special in every way. I thought he handled everything today really well. It won’t affect him where he’s knocked back but he also is not going to go bonkers in retaliation or anything like that."

Okafor ended with a career-high 28 points, eight rebounds, a career-high four blocks, shooting 7-for-11 from the field and 14-for-17 from the line.

Krzyzewski went out of his way to praise the defensive lift Duke got from reserves Sulaimon, Matt Jones and Marshall Plumlee. Plumlee had six rebounds and four blocks in 11 minutes. Okafor and Plumlee combined for 31 points, 14 rebounds, eight blocks, two assists and a steal.

Quinn Cook (15), Justise Winslow (13) and Sulaimon (11) joined Okafor in double figures, although it seems like Winslow deserved some bonus points for a couple of jaw-dropping dunks, one in each half.

The freshmen have their ACC baptism behind them. But a couple of road games loom. Veteran Amile Jefferson says the message for the freshmen is simple; "be ready to fight. Teams are going to throw different stuff at you, maintain your composure in heated environments."


Duke went 13-0 for the ninth time in school history, eight under Krzyzeski’s tenure.

Duke’s home winning streak is now at 41.

The win ties Duke’s all-time record for consecutive double-digit wins. They also won 13 straight by 10 or more points in 1999.

Okafor said his mother, father, aunt and sister, among others were in attendance. Evidently not a distraction.

Clifford, who fouled out with eight points and five rebounds, didn’t make any fans in Cameron with his physical style. But Krzyzewski made a point to praise Clifford, who has battled serious knee problems, calling his return "a really neat story. . . . Whatever they did, it was terrific."

Hanlan led BC with 22 points but Duke held Aaron Brown to 11 points, five below his season average. The much-traveled Brown played two seasons at Temple, another at Southern Mississippi and is playing at BC as a grad student.

Boston College started another grad student, Dimitri Batten, who came from Old Dominion. Batten had one of the stranger games I’ve seen, playing 25 minutes but scoring all of his seven points in the first 2:22 of the second half.