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NCAA Tournament 2015: Duke Beats Robert Morris 85-56

It wasn't much of a game other than a bit of conflict caused by a poorly conceived (and missed) dunk.

Justise Winslow showed his versatility with seven assists vs. Robert Morris
Justise Winslow showed his versatility with seven assists vs. Robert Morris
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Duke had little trouble dispatching Robert Morris in the South's 1 vs. 16 matchup, winning by 29, 85-56.

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Quinn Cook had 22 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals. Marshall Plumlee had his first double-double, finishing with 10 points and 10 boards and several beautiful outlet passes.

Justise Winslow had seven assists and played a key role when Robert Morris mounted a comeback attempt.

For the most part it was an easy Duke win, but at a key point in the second half, Jahlil Okafor offered - and one hopes benefited - from a key object lesson.

Duke was rolling at that point, hitting on all cylinders. Okafor decided to try for a celebratory reverse dunk - which missed.

The attempt angered coach Mike Krzyzewski, who called timeout to sit Okafor down. According to Twitter (and if you can't trust Twitter who can you trust), he berated his ace big man about the "fancy stuff," although we don't think stuff is the word we're looking for here.

There was a personal lecture for Okafor obviously, but there was a bigger lesson for the team as well: don't disrespect an opponent at any point in a game, and never, ever offer emotional fuel.

That appeared to be exactly what happened as Robert Morris mounted its only effective run of the game, scoring eight straight and cutting the lead to 10.

Enter Justise Winslow.

Relatively quiet up to that point, Winslow hit a three, then grabbed a rebound and took it downcourt for a layup. And then he grabbed another defensive rebound and found Tyus Jones for a corner three.

And just like that, in less than two minutes, Winslow, more or less personally, erased RMU's eight point run with another.

Duke was back up by 18.

Rodney Pryor cut the lead to 10 at 11:55; Robert Morris didn't score again until Marcquise Reed hit a pair of foul shots with 8:04 left and Duke up by 20.

The next field goal didn't come until there was 6:02 left and from Pryor's shot, Robert Morris would only hit four more field goals.

So in other words, from the 11:55 mark, Duke allowed just 10 points. If you're going to pick a part of the game in which to lock a team down, the final quarter of the game is the time to do it.

Obviously Duke's defense was much better than it was against Notre Dame. RMU shot just 36.4% for the game and just 31.6% from three point range.

But it was more than that. Duke played with pinache. The Blue Devils showed spirit and played with a lot of fluidity. That's true of the entire team, but it is more true of Quinn Cook than anyone else.

Cook had some amazing plays in this game, but let's look at two: first, a layup where the pass forced him to adjust to a very strange angle on the shot. He ended up sort of shoveling the ball up high. It wasn't really a shot as much as body english to put it where it needed to go. Pretty amazing really.

And second, he got a pass for a fast break which he caught on the end line.

Not a problem: he tossed a pass behind his back to Amile Jefferson for another easy basket.

For Duke, no doubt this game was a welcome tonic to the Notre Dame loss in the ACC Tournament, and there were a lot of really, really encouraging things. Just a quick list:

  • Pretty solid defense
  • Shooting 63% from the floor.
  • Shooting 47.6% from three point range.
  • 9-11 for Okafor.
  • 8-12 for Cook.
  • 5-6 for Marshall Plumlee, who was brilliant off the bench, and who had his first double-double and played one of his best games at Duke.
  • Playing together so very well.

Yet it wasn't a perfect outing - when is it? - and Okafor's brief experience with cockiness wasn't the worst news.

It occurs to us when we made our list of things to look for when you pick your brackets that we missed one very important one: foul shooting. All the games are likely to be close, so foul shooting is increasingly important.

Try this on for size. Say it two or three times: Okafor and Jefferson were Duke's best foul shooters against Robert Morris.

Okafor and Jefferson were Duke's best foul shooters against Robert Morris.

Okafor and Jefferson were...

Duke only shot 14 but hit just seven. In a different game that might have proved fatal.

Fortunately, Robert Morris wasn't able to take advantage of it.

On Sunday, Duke will play the winner of the St. John's-San Diego State game. Both teams pose particular challenges for Duke and as always, the later rounds get more and more desperately competitive.

Between now and then, you can be sure that Okafor's foray into arrogance will be talked about, quarantined and left in the past.

Whoever Duke plays on Sunday, the Blue Devils will not hand them a lighter and a Molotov cocktail.