No. 7 Duke 69, George Mason 53

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DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—DeMarcus Nelson and Jon Scheyer took care of the scoring while the entire Duke team took care of the basketball. The result was one of the Blue Devils’ best offensive showing in weeks.

Nelson scored 24 points while Scheyer had 18, both career highs, to lead No. 7 Duke past George Mason 69-53 on Saturday, extending the nation’s longest home nonconference winning streak to 48 games.

Josh McRoberts added seven points, eight rebounds and a career-high eight assists for the Blue Devils (9-1), who led the entire way.

The young Duke team has struggled with scoring and turnovers, ranking last in the Atlantic Coast Conference at 68 points per game coming in while averaging nearly 18 turnovers. After a 57-45 victory over Holy Cross on Wednesday in which Duke committed 20 turnovers, Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski said his team had to learn how to “win better.”

The Blue Devils did that against the Patriots (4-4), finishing with season highs of nine 3-pointers and 21 assists while committing a season-low 11 turnovers.

“The 11 turnovers is heaven for us right now,” Krzyzewski said.

It wasn’t the kind of high-scoring, fast-paced show that the Blue Devils have put together in recent years at Cameron Indoor Stadium. But for a young team trying to find itself offensively, it was a welcome sign of improvement.

“Our team is going in the right direction,” said Scheyer, a freshman. “We’ve taken a couple of steps forward and a huge step back, then a step forward and a step back. That’s been the story of our team so far.”

Nelson, who has been in double figures in all but one game this season, finished 8-for-10 from the field and hit two 3-pointers in the opening 4 1/2 minutes for the early lead. Scheyer—a 6-foot-5 wing guard who had to play the point while Greg Paulus was sidelined in the preseason with a foot injury—was 6-for-12 from the field, including four 3s, to better his previous high of 14 points against Davidson on Nov. 25.

They combined to score 29 of Duke’s 36 second-half points, helping the Blue Devils build an 11-point halftime lead to as many as 18 points late.

“Our emphasis this game was to come out and have a very aggressive mind-set offensively and defensively,” Nelson said, “but mainly offensively because that’s the area of our game we feel we need to develop faster.”

And, of course, Duke’s defense was as stingy as ever.

George Mason shot 42 percent for the game and committed 15 turnovers. The Patriots went without a field goal for the final six minutes of the first half to fall behind by double figures.

“When a team like Duke puts a lot of pressure on the ballhandler and the pass receiver, everything is more difficult and so you’ve got to go harder and make that passer’s job a little easier than it is,” George Mason coach Jim Larranaga said. “We’ve got a lot of youthful mistakes. And until we can get our players to raise their level of effort and intensity in terms of doing the simple things well, they’re going to have a hard time running any offense.”

While the Patriots were shut down late in the half, the Blue Devils got a reverse layup from David McClure, a 3 from Paulus and a layup from McRoberts at the other end to turn a 24-21 lead into a 33-22 halftime advantage. The Blue Devils came out of the break with one of their best offensive surges of the season, getting seven straight points from Nelson and two 3s from Scheyer to make it 46-31 with 15:51 to play.

George Mason got as close as 57-47 on a jumper from Louis Birdsong with 6:39 left, but Duke answered with a 3 from Scheyer to start an 8-1 run that put the game out of reach. Nelson followed with a layup and a free throw to complete a three-point play, then hit two more from the line to make it 65-48 with 3 minutes left.

Will Thomas and Folarin Campbell each scored 13 points for George Mason.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 George Mason
W. Thomas W. Thomas
6-6,  13 Pts
4 Rebs, 1 Assists
D. Nelson D. Nelson
8-10,  24 Pts
4 Rebs, 4 Assists

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