DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—Duke’s young team is still trying to figure out how to play offense. The Blue Devils are fortunate the defense is coming along a little quicker.
DeMarcus Nelson scored 19 points Tuesday night as No. 11 Duke held on to beat Indiana 54-51 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, keeping the Blue Devils as the only unbeaten team in the eight-year history of the event.
Freshman Jon Scheyer had 10 points for the Blue Devils (6-1), who extended their nonconference home winning streak to 45 games despite struggling most of the night with their shooting and offensive execution. Duke shot 32 percent— including 4-for-18 after halftime—but made the Hoosiers (3-2) fight for just about every basket in a tough game that came down to the final possession.
It was the fewest points scored by the Blue Devils in a win since taking a 47-46 victory over Georgia Tech on Feb. 3, 1982—Mike Krzyzewski’s second season in Durham. Still, the Blue Devils did enough to give their Hall of Fame coach his 759th career victory, tying him with Western Kentucky’s Ed Diddle for 10th on the all-time list.
“Our offense put so much pressure on our defense that … we have to play great defense or else we don’t win this game,” Krzyzewski said.
The Blue Devils’ pressure defense harassed Indiana into 9-for-28 shooting in the first half to take a 33-21 lead. And when the Hoosiers made a late surge to get back in the game, Duke came up with two big defensive stops in the final seconds to seal it.
“Defense always wins games,” Nelson said. “If the other team can’t score, they can’t win. We have a lot of guys who can defend multiple positions and defense is how we win.”
Freshman Armon Bassett scored 16 points to lead the Hoosiers, who played without junior Lance Stemler, the team’s third-leading scorer who was sidelined after suffering a concussion in practice over the weekend.
But Bassett didn’t get much help. D.J. White, who came in averaging 14 points, finished with seven on 3-for-11 shooting while Joey Shaw added nine. Errek Suhr, a 5-foot-9 reserve who came in with six points in 25 minutes on the season, finished with five points and two assists in 24 determined minutes.
“It’s just good defense by Duke,” White said. “They showed me a lot of different looks when I caught the ball. Sometimes they came when I caught it, sometimes on the first dribble. They did a real good job just mixing their coverage up.”
Duke led 53-46 on a 3-pointer from Scheyer with 5:01 left, but that was its last field goal. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers fought back, cutting the lead 53-51 on Bassett’s drive with 2:04 left.
Then, after a free throw by Gerald Henderson, the Hoosiers had two late chances to tie it. On the first, Bassett airballed a 3-pointer that went out of bounds to Duke. But Suhr stole Josh McRoberts’ inbounds pass for Nelson with 9.3 seconds left, giving the Hoosiers possession.
Yet Indiana—which had no timeouts left—managed only a leaning 3 from Suhr that fell short of the rim as the horn sounded.
That capped a tough, physical second half in which the Blue Devils went 0-for-4 from the field and 1-for-4 from the line in the final five minutes. Nelson and Scheyer got little help, with McRoberts tallying seven points while fellow sophomore David McClure had six.
The Hoosiers hardly had an impressive offensive day, either. Indiana got back into the game by holding Duke without a field goal for more than 6 minutes to start the second half and eventually knocked down some looks behind Bassett’s 11 second-half points. The Hoosiers shot 46 percent after halftime, including 3-for-6 from behind the arc.
But they failed to capitalize at the line (5-for-10 after halftime) when the game hung in the balance, handing coach Kelvin Sampson a frustrating loss in his native state.
“We’ve got to find something we’re good at,” he said. “We can’t go through the season walking through somebody else’s living room with a blindfold on. You’re hitting furniture all over the place. You’ve got to open your eyes and see where you’re going. You’ve got to have an identity.”