DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—One night after winning their opener, Duke’s youngsters needed some time to find their intensity against a quick, athletic opponent. Once they did, the 11th-ranked Blue Devils were on their way.
Josh McRoberts and DeMarcus Nelson each scored 16 points while Duke shut down pesky Georgia Southern in the second half of a 72-48 win in the second round of the CBE Classic on Monday night.
Freshman Gerald Henderson added 13 points for the Blue Devils (2-0), who won the tournament’s Durham Regional and advanced to next week’s semifinals of the 16-team tournament in Kansas City, Mo. Fellow rookie Jon Scheyer scored 11 points to help the Blue Devils extend their nonconference home winning streak to 42 games.
Still, it wasn’t easy.
The Blue Devils—who had an 86-43 opening win over Columbia on Sunday night — trailed for most of the first half before using a late run to go ahead late in the period. The Blue Devils stepped up their defense after the break, pushing the margin to as many as 25 points in the final minute.
“You know you’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” said point guard Greg Paulus, who had seven points and four assists. “And to be mentally prepared and physically ready, you kind of have to go through it a couple of times. This was a good learning experience for us.”
Dwayne Foreman matched his career high with 18 points to lead the Eagles. But Georgia Southern didn’t help itself in the second half, shooting just 21 percent (7-for-33) against Duke’s pressure while making one of eight free throws as the game slipped away.
“It’s hard to stay in games when you’re doing that,” Georgia Southern coach Jeff Price said.
Georgia Southern’s tempo—which allowed the Eagles to score 116 points in Sunday’s win against UC Davis—caused the Blue Devils, who start four sophomores and freshmen, plenty of headaches. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski even kicked the scorer’s table at one point after McRoberts was called for a first-half travel.
Foreman was particularly tough, routinely dribbling by defenders as the Eagles managed to get several looks via penetration. Many of those looks fell early, but Georgia Southern missed 16 of 20 shots to open the second half and scored just 16 points after halftime.
“We knew we had to keep them out of the middle with dribble penetration,” said Nelson, who slowed Foreman in the second half and finished with 10 rebounds. “We knew we had to get our hands out on shooters.”
Things weren’t quite as smooth on the offensive end. The Blue Devils had trouble getting in synch without their trademark transition scoring chances, shooting 41 percent in the first half before their defense led to some easy baskets that helped them build their lead.
“We just have to keep playing ‘D’ while we learn to play with one another,” Krzyzewski said.
Georgia Southern led 18-12 on a shot clock-beating 3 by Foreman with 11:29 left in the first half. The Blue Devils finally took their first lead on Paulus’ free throw with 7:08 left, then went ahead to stay at 31-30 on a basket from Henderson.
That started a 9-2 spurt over the final 2 minutes of the half, with Nelson ending the run by draining a 3 in front of Georgia Southern’s bench just before the horn for a 38-32 lead.
The Blue Devils gradually increased that margin, pushing the lead to 42-32 on McRoberts’ dunk off an alley-oop pass from Paulus and to 58-40 on McRoberts’ jumper off a feed from Nelson midway through the second half.
Duke finished with a 43-34 rebounding advantage and hit 22 of 32 free throws compared to a 6-for-14 performance from Georgia Southern.
“We came out in the first half with great intensity,” Foreman said. “In the second half, we just had too many letdowns.”