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Triple-threat: 3-point barrage lifts Blue Devils

In college basketball, it is often said that teams live or die by the three-point shot.

Saturday night against Davidson, a barrage of key three-pointers on the offensive end and smothering perimeter defense gave Duke the life it needed to overcome a pesky opponent.

Time and again, the Blue Devils were patient in their offensive sets and hit decisive three-pointers with the shot clock winding down.

"When you play 29, 32 seconds of defense and they come in with that three-point shot, it's a dagger in your heart," Davidson head coach Bob McKillop said. "It gives them energy, it inflates the crowd and it really deflates you. You've just exhausted yourself and you come up empty, and they have three points with the crowd cheering."

The Wildcats hung close to the Blue Devils for much of the first half, but a J.J. Redick three-pointer with time running out in the period put Duke up 15 and gave the team momentum entering the second half.

Not wanting to let Redick end the half with a long-range bucket, the Wildcats double-teamed him on the wing closest to their bench. The defenders then lost focus for just a moment, thinking Redick double-dribbled. The momentary lapse gave Redick a tiny opening to dribble once to his left and launch a long fade-away shot-it hit nothing but net.

"It gave us a lot of momentum," said Redick, who was 4-for-6 from deep. "It was something we talked about when we had a timeout with about 2:30 to go [in the first half] when we were up 11, and we talked about going on a silent run. We got the last four points of the half to go up 15-it's a big momentum swing."

Duke's shooting started slow in the first half; the team only made 3-for-11 from beyond the arc. But after Redick's three to close out the opening period, the Blue Devils picked up the pace. Duke hit 7-of-10 threes in the second half and extended a 15-point halftime lead into an 84-55 blowout victory.

Every time it looked as if Davidson would make a game of it, the Blue Devils hit threes to push their lead higher.

Redick and Lee Melchionni hit consecutive treys to extend the lead to 20 with 16 minutes to go in the second half. Redick's three came off of a Melchionni drive-and-dish and Melchionni hit his after DeMarcus Nelson drove baseline and kicked the ball out.

With Redick causing all sorts of problems for the Wildcat defenders on the outside and Shelden Williams eating up space inside, all Duke had to do to open up long-range shots was be patient and keep its spacing. Late in the second half Greg Paulus nailed one of his two triples on the day, and Melchionni broke out of his shooting slump by hitting two more to ice the victory.

"People have to play [Redick and Williams] a man and a half to two men," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We kept good spacing, so when they doubled, guys were right on the [three-point] line and you make a kick and we have open shots."

The 10 three-pointers Duke made, do not even tell the whole story. A Davidson defender knocked Redick down while he was shooting a three from the corner early in the second half and Redick coolly sank all three free throws.

On top of scoring in multiples of threes on the offensive end, the Blue Devils also shut down Davidson's shooters. The Wildcats averaged almost nine three-pointers per game last season while going 23-9; Duke held them to just 1-for-8 Saturday night.

"With the three-point shooting as a whole, if you look at their numbers versus ours, we're usually a good three-point-shooting team and they did not give us any looks," McKillop said.

If guys like Sean Dockery and Nelson can harass shooters on the perimeter like they did Saturday, it does not look like the Blue Devils' opponents will have much success shooting this year.

And on offense, Duke will continue to capitalize on its depth of shooting talent. Beyond having what Krzyzewski called the "best shooter in the country" in Redick, several other options have emerged including Melchionni, Paulus, Nelson and Dockery.

"As long as they come within our offense and they're good shots, we'll take as many as we can," Melchionni said.

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