CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Duke received a reminder that it wears a target as the No. 1-ranked team, so the Blue Devils were forced to put together another lesson in defense.
Duke turned to a relentless defense to shake off Davidson 67-50 Wednesday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.
"The second half, our overall intensity picked up," guard Tyler Thornton said. "We just have to remind ourselves that we are the best team in the country."
The Blue Devils, playing their final game before beginning Atlantic Coast Conference play this weekend, didn't allow a point in the first six minutes of the second half to pull away from a 29-29 halftime tie.
"We knew it was going to be a fight," Duke forward Ryan Kelly said. "Teams are going to come after us."
Kelly scored 18 points to match his season high, with his 3-pointer extending the lead to 41-29 with 14:18 to play. Davidson's Chris Czerapowicz drained a 15-foot jumper on the Wildcats' next possession to break the second-half scoring drought.
By then, much of the damage had been done.
Duke went from a 1-assist, 9-turnover first half to a 7-assist, 3-turnover second half against Davidson's evolving defenses.
"We just played a lot sharper," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "The second half I thought we played really well and had to."
Duke (13-0), which won for the 17th consecutive time to start a new calendar year, received two 3-pointers from Thornton, a reserve, in the second-half surge that produced a 48-33 advantage.
"They were at critical junctures of the game and gave them a lift," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said of Thornton's jumpers.
Jake Cohen scored 19 points for Southern Conference member Davidson (7-6), which won three of its previous four games. Cohen tallied 13 of the Wildcats' 21 second-half points, but the team was held to its lowest point total of the season.
"This game will do a good job of getting us ready (for the rest of the season)," said Cohen, who suffered a cut above his left eye during the game.
The Wildcats managed only five points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, then scored eight more in the next two minutes to close within 50-42.
By the end, there were too many Duke weapons for the Wildcats to keep track of.
"I thought our defense was very, very efficient," McKillop said. "If you stop two of them, they've got five who came make you pay, and Ryan Kelly made us pay."
Duke's Quinn Cook scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, and Thornton ended up with 10 points. Duke forward Mason Plumlee, who picked up his fourth foul with 4:34 to play, scored a season-low 10 points.
Davidson finished with a 34-33 rebounding edge, though that was reduced from a 22-15 margin in the first half.
"There were a lot of things gratifying about this game, and clearly that (rebounding) was one of those things," McKillop said.
Davidson's De'Mon Brooks had a game-high 12 rebounds, but his inability to convert off some at the offensive end was devastating. He shot 4 for 13 from the field.
Duke's Seth Curry made only one of his first five shots from the field while playing in his hometown. The senior guard finished with six points after a 31-point outing in Duke's last game against Santa Clara.
The half ended with Krzyzewski scolding members of the scorer's table when the horn went off even though it was unclear if the clock should have started.
Davidson was within 21-20 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the first half. A pair of Kelly 3-pointers helped Duke push to a 29-24 edge for its largest lead before the Wildcats scored the last five points of the half.
Davidson stayed close in part because of 12 second-chance points in the first half.
Duke, playing for the second time in 13 days, hasn't had a halftime lead of more than eight points in its past three games.
The game was played at the home of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats, with the crowd of 13,607 basically split. Davidson's campus is 22 miles away, and the Wildcats have played select games in the arena for the past dozen years. Duke is located about a 2 1/2-hour drive away.
NOTES: Duke has opened a season with 13 consecutive victories for the seventh time in Krzyzewski's 33 seasons. The next game comes Saturday at home against Wake Forest. ... The last time Davidson faced a top-ranked Duke team came in the same building exactly 11 years earlier, with Duke winning 106-71. ... Davidson entered the game shooting 79.5 percent (198 of 249) on free throws to rank third nationally. The Wildcats went 11 of 12 in this game. ... Davidson is Duke's most-frequent non-conference opponent, as the teams met for the 106th time. Duke has won 89 times.