Duke learned this lesson against Division II national champion Drury Saturday in a highly-contested 81-65 victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Although the Blue Devils played a subpar first half against smaller competition in the Panthers, the second half told a much different story.
"They weren't scoring because we weren't working hard," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "They were scoring because we weren't working hard together. Second half we worked hard together."
The Blue Devils came out determined after trailing at the break 38-34, and forced a turnover that earned Rodney Hood an easy layup in the opening seconds. Hood led the Blue Devils with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out four assists to lead his team's comeback effort.
"I got to set a tone being strong, always having each other's back, and talking," Hood said. "Just come out with a sense of urgency, not worry about the score or what people are going to say after the game. We're staying the moment and just winning the game."
Duke's defensive intensity improved as the second half progressed. The Blue Devils began to box out better on rebounds and put pressure on the ball. Success on the defensive end translated to better play on offense.
"You could tell a difference in the second half with their defensive intensity," Drury head coach Steve Hesser said. "Second half, it was harder for us to move the basketball because they were really getting up and pressuring."
Duke took a 46-44 lead on a Josh Hairston follow-up layup with 14:25 left in the second half and did not look back. By the nine-minute mark, the Blue Devils had extended their lead to 11 points. Despite efforts to comeback, Drury failed to convert enough of the its offensive opportunities to erase the Duke lead.
"The second half I thought we talked better, communicated better, and played a lot better," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "But we didn't play poorly in the first half because we just didn't care. We played poorly just because they played really well. They're good, they're extremely well coached, and they play as one. And we're trying to learn to play that way."
In the first half, the Blue Devils had not been able to capitalize on their advantages as Drury's disciplined play resulted in a 38-34 lead at the half.
Despite a severe height discrepancy between the two team—Drury's tallest player is 6-foot-6 and Duke's is 7-foot—both teams managed 21 rebounds at the end of the half. The Blue Devils failed to box out and contend for defensive rebounds, allowing the Panthers multiple attempts per possession.
Drury played a more polished game in the first half than Duke. Their national championship pedigree was present as the Panthers would not back down to any adversity on the court, whether it was a resounding Duke slam dunk that excited the fans in attendance or a miscue while the Panthers were on offense.
"I think they beat us in the first half, and that's what we need to stop from happening," freshman forward Jabari Parker said. "I know that they did a real good job coming in, preparing, throwing up 10 assists, and it played out well for them."
Duke failed to convert the majority of its 3-point shots, shooting a meager 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. On the offensive end, the Blue Devils relied on 1-on-1 matchups to procure scoring as the team's ball movement slowed. After dishing out 21 assists as a team in its first exhibition victory against Bowie State, Duke managed just 13 helpers against Drury.
Duke played the entire bench except for Rasheed Sulaimon—who was reported to be battling illness—Todd Zafirovski and Nick Pagliuca in the first half alone, as head coach Mike Krzyzewski searched for the lineup combination that might spark a Blue Devil run. Duke kept attacking the basket on the offensive end, despite shooting a paltry 53.8 percent from the free throw line in the half.
Besides Hood, Duke received key contributions from Parker and junior guard Quinn Cook, who each scored in double figures, and Amile Jefferson who grabbed 16 rebounds and notched 13 points.
After the contest, Krzyzewski said there was a stark difference between Hood's performance and the rest of the his team. With the regular season just around the corner, college basketball's winningest head coach indicated the Blue Devils are still a work in progress.
"When we come in here, and we're talking about what we did instead of what an individual did, then we've gotten it there," Krzyzewski said.