DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—Shelden Williams sensed it like everyone else. For some reason, Duke backed off against Bucknell.
“We kind of relaxed a little bit, and they got a little confidence, a little bounce in their step,” Williams said. “We had to play the rest of the game.”
With Williams leading the way, the top-ranked Blue Devils did exactly that— very well.
The powerful 6-foot-9 center stopped a scoring drought early in the second half with eight of his 23 points, J.J. Redick finished with 22 despite some poor shooting and Duke easily handled the Bison 84-50 on Monday.
Williams added 11 rebounds for his fourth straight double-double, and freshman Josh McRoberts got his first with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Blue Devils (13-0), one of eight undefeated teams in the country. They have five days off until traveling to Atlantic Coast Conference rival Wake Forest.
Duke has 17 games left, 15 in the conference.
“We’re probably going to get beat a number of times,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I just think we have to keep improving. I like my team, but we’re not who we will be.”
The Bison (9-3) failed to pull another upset in their first meeting ever against a No. 1 team. In the past calendar year, they have victories at Pittsburgh and Syracuse, along with one in the NCAA tournament over Kansas. But coach Pat Flannery’s team appeared overmatched from the start of this one and trailed 17-2.
It got worse. With Redick making six consecutive shots at one point—he eventually lost his touch a bit—the Blue Devils stretched the lead to 20. He later connected on a spinning, turnaround jumper for his 16th point, making the score 34-15 and allowing the Cameron Crazies to chant “J.J.’s winning!”
“It was definitely a thing where we wanted to make a statement to ourselves that we can shut down a good team, a precise offensive team and beat them pretty good and put them away,” Redick said. “They’re obviously a team that’s beaten some big-time schools this year and last year, so it was a good win for us.”
The Bison trailed 42-19 at halftime and started the second half with a spirited rally. Charles Lee swished a 3-pointer, then worked inside for a layup. Chris McNaughton made the first of two free throws, but his miss on the second wound up in the hands of Kevin Bettencourt, who drained a 3 to complete a 9-0 run.
That was his first basket of the game, and it brought Bucknell within 42-28. Meanwhile, Duke struggled to score, with Redick suddenly off. He clanged two jumpers off the rim seconds apart—Williams rebounded the first and passed it back to him—then rattled a 3-pointer in-and-out.
Greg Paulus also missed from beyond the arc, and while the Bison couldn’t take advantage, they headed to the first media timeout still down 14.
“They’re not a team that’s going to let up because we’re up by a certain amount of points,” Williams said. “We know they came in to prove a point, and we can’t let up.”
Williams made sure the margin grew from there. He converted two free throws, powered in for a dunk and had a layup to make it 48-28, and his play appeared to inspire his teammates. Redick got fouled and made both from the line, and McRoberts leaped high to snare a lob pass from Sean Dockery before slamming it through the hoop.
Dockery got in the act, too, getting a three-point play to give the Blue Devils 13 straight points, and Bucknell finally was done.
“It goes so fast with them,” McNaughton said. “You can’t let up, the 1 second you let up, we were down 20 again, and it’s tough to get back in the game then.”
McNaughton had 15 points for the Bison, and Jason Vegotsky added 12.
“I know the score didn’t look good at the end, but we have a good basketball team,” Flannery said. “We’re not going out of here with anything but our heads up, and that’s not coach talk. We’ll play another day.”
Redick had trouble finding his rhythm following his one spurt in the first half. He averaged 31 points over the previous four games and connected on 51 percent of his 3s, but the points didn’t come so easily against Bucknell.
He finished 2-for-11 from beyond the arc and 9-for-21 overall.
“I’m not especially happy all the time after I have a great game, or I’m not especially down after I have bad games, personally,” Redick said. “I’m looking at it like we’re 13-0 and we’ve got another win. For us to play the way we did, it feels pretty good.”