DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—Duke has found ways to win with a young team so far this season. Now coach Mike Krzyzewski wants to see his Blue Devils grow up a little more.
DeMarcus Nelson and Josh McRoberts each scored 13 points to lead No. 7 Duke past Holy Cross 57-45 on Wednesday night, giving the Blue Devils their 47th straight nonconference home victory.
Freshman Gerald Henderson added eight points and came up with some big plays during a 20-4 second-half run for the Blue Devils (8-1), who trailed most of the way before the decisive run.
Still, the Blue Devils had to overcome poor first-half shooting and 20 turnovers for the game. Duke also shot just 13-for-27 from the foul line.
“We have to learn to win better,” Krzyzewski said.
Keith Simmons scored 13 points to lead the Crusaders (6-3), who shot 46 percent in the first half to take a six-point lead. But the Blue Devils—in what has become their best asset this season—turned to their defense until their offense could come around.
On paper, this game seemed destined to end up as one of the lopsided home wins that have become commonplace for the Blue Devils. But so far this season, with a young Duke team still trying to find itself, just about every game has been a fight.
Last week, Duke clawed its way past Indiana and Georgetown in the second half after losing to Marquette earlier in November. On this night, the Blue Devils hit only eight field goals in the first half against a team that seemed unfazed by the hostile surroundings.
By the time the half was over, Holy Cross led 28-22—prompting several of its purple-clad fans to take pictures of the scoreboard above the court.
Duke responded with another strong second half, mirroring its effort in the 61-52 win against the Hoyas.
“What we have right now is a team of guys who are still trying to establish themselves, so you can kind of get into putting too much pressure on each shot,” Nelson said. “It’s coming from a good place. Everyone wants to do well, and I think sometimes that can be a negative. We just have to go out and play hard and be aggressive and take what the defense gives you.”
While Nelson and McRoberts led the scoring, Henderson provided probably the biggest spark during Duke’s big spurt, starting with taking a charge as Holy Cross pushed upcourt on a 3-on-1 fast break and a 34-30 lead. That started a run of 13 straight points, which included Henderson grabbing an offensive rebound off a missed free throw by Brian Zoubek and finding Nelson for a 3-pointer and a 38-34 lead.
Henderson also knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, both on the right side off feeds from Jon Scheyer, that gave Duke a 46-36 lead with 9:31 left.
“I try to come off the bench and give a spark,” said Henderson, an athletic 6-foot-4 guard. “I just felt like, coming off the bench, I needed to bring energy and do something to get us up.”
Drawing the charge against Lawrence Dixon helped. McRoberts scored on the next possession to start the 20-4 run, with Duke taking its first lead on a free throw by Zoubek at 35-34. Duke ended the run with an inside score from McRoberts and a driving layup from Scheyer, giving the Blue Devils their biggest lead at 50-38 with 6 1/2 minutes left.
As Duke made its run, Holy Cross struggled to find its range. The Crusaders, who shot 46 percent in the first half, shot just 7-for-24 after halftime while Duke went 11-for-18 from the field.
The Crusaders had trouble against Duke’s defensive pressure after halftime while foul trouble quickly piled up. That included 6-foot-10 center Tim Clifford, who fouled out with more than 10 minutes left while trying to match up with the 6-11 McRoberts, opening up the inside for the Blue Devils.
“The start of the second half was not good for us,” Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard said. “We got in foul trouble and got them in the bonus really early. … Their defense is outstanding. They really denied us all the entry passes. We really labored in the second half, probably because we had too many guys playing too many minutes.”