DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer nearly did it all for No. 9 Duke.
With two other starters missing, they had to.
Singler scored 20 points, Scheyer added 18 and the Blue Devils shrugged off a pair of key absences to rout North Carolina-Greensboro 96-62 on Friday night.
Singler, the ACC’s preseason player of the year, had 14 points in the first half and wound up playing 38 minutes. Scheyer, the only true guard in the starting lineup, logged 37 turnover-free minutes for Duke (1-0).
“There’s no middle reliever,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said, referring to his temporarily shorthanded team. “There’s no (Mariano) Rivera coming in at the end, or any setup guys, so they have to play like that.”
The Blue Devils shot 59.7 percent and used two huge first-half runs to extend their NCAA record home nonconference winning streak to 69. The ACC’s preseason co-favorites with defending national champion North Carolina improved to 28-2 in openers under Coach K.
And once they got rolling, they made it look easy—even without guard Nolan Smith, who was suspended for the first two games of the season for playing in unsanctioned summer league games, and 6-foot-10 freshman forward Mason Plumlee, who’s out indefinitely with a broken left wrist.
“It’s been a couple of days we’ve been practicing without Nolan, and obviously, we’re a better team with him,” Scheyer said. “We were able to adjust tonight, which is key.”
Duke had four starters who each stood at least 6-7—or, one inch taller than the biggest Spartan starter, 6-6 Pete Brown.
“When we try to finish, they’re against really big guys,” said UNC Greensboro coach Mike Dement, a former assistant to Krzyzewski. “(The Blue Devils) are finishing against smaller guys.”
Duke took the drama out of this one by halftime with a pair of overwhelming runs.
Singler and Scheyer each had seven points during the 23-6 spurt that gave the Blue Devils a comfortable lead, with Miles Plumlee’s putback capping the burst and making it 23-8 with roughly 12 minutes before the break. Duke later used a 17-5 burst to go up 23 when Scheyer’s free throw at the 1:58 mark doubled up the Spartans, 46-23.
“I just had open shots and took them, and they went in,” Singler said. “Once you see some shots go in early, you might take some shots that you might not take if you missed a couple.”
Brian Zoubek, the Blue Devils’ 7-1 center, scored 14 off the bench. Lance Thomas added 12 and Miles Plumlee scored 10.
Ben Stywall had 19 points to lead UNC Greensboro (0-1), the preseason pick to finish last in its division in the Southern Conference.
It fell to 0-23 against ranked teams while opening against one for the first time in 15 years. It was a tough way for the Spartans to begin a brutal schedule that includes half of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 12 teams—and four of them are coming to the Greensboro Coliseum, where this season’s ACC tournament will be held.
“The kids are having fun getting ready for it,” Dement said. “It isn’t easy, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s fun.”
Duke’s on-the-court victory came a few hours after the Blue Devils lost a signing-period showdown to rival North Carolina. Harrison Barnes, widely considered the top prep prospect in the country, picked the Tar Heels over Duke and a handful of other prominent programs during an elaborate signing ceremony at his Iowa high school.
A few weeks earlier during his campus visit for an exhibition game, some of those clever Cameron Crazies attempted to woo Barnes by holding one sign depicting actor Harrison Ford next to another picturing two barns.