Up 35-34, Gerald Henderson rebounded Brian Zoubek's missed free-throw and kicked it out to DeMarcus Nelson, who drained a three-pointer from the baseline to put the No. 7 Blue Devils up four, eight minutes into the second period.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said Henderson's rebound was probably the biggest play of Wednesday's game-a game in which the Blue Devils trailed at halftime for their second-straight contest in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Sinking two three pointers within the next three minutes, Henderson helped to turn a six-point deficit at intermission to a 12-point, 57-45, win over Holy Cross Wednesday night.
"Three plays that he made equaled nine points," Krzyzewski said. "And in this game, nine points was a lot."
The Blue Devils (8-1) were held under their 69.5-point scoring average in their third-straight home contest as Holy Cross (6-3) dictated the tempo for much of the game.
Struggling to establish themselves offensively in the first period against the Crusader's 1-3-1 zone, Duke turned the ball over 12 times, including several missed lob passes down low.
Holy Cross capitalized on the Blue Devils' miscues and lackluster play, scoring 12 points off turnovers and six on the fast-break.
"They took control of the tempo of the game and made you play every possession, and they played more of those possessions better than we did," Krzyzewski said.
Josh McRoberts went into halftime having attempted only two shots and with three points-even with the advantage of playing on the baseline against the 1-3-1.
But the Blue Devil team that came out for the second half was completely different than the one that went into the locker room trailing, 28-22.
And although shooting nearly 30 percentage points higher from the floor helped to solidify its second-half scoring output, Duke's 20-6 run in the first 9 minutes was fueled by its stronger defensive play.
In the first half, the Crusaders ran a series of pick-and-rolls, hitting the open man off the roll. In the second, however, Duke continuously switched defenders, shutting down the looks Holy Cross had been getting earlier.
"I thought our defense in the second half was excellent," Krzyzewski said. "They weren't able to get ahead of us-get an angle. In the first half, we didn't do a good job of that and they got by us."
The Blue Devils forced 20 turnovers on the night and contained the Crusaders' leading scorer, senior guard Keith Simmons, to 13 points.
Additionally, DeMarcus Nelson, Greg Paulus and Henderson all took charges within a critical three-minute stretch at the beginning of the second half when the Blue Devils were still trailing.
"Our defense has saved us, and thank goodness for that," Krzyzewski said.
Nelson and McRoberts led Duke with 13 points apiece, scoring a combined 19 points after halftime.
"They made their wide-open looks in the second half and we didn't," Holy Cross head coach Ralph Willard said. "When you get good looks, you have to knock them down-and we didn't."
Despite the 12-point margin of victory, however, the Blue Devils were not satisfied with their play.
Duke players turned the ball over a collective 20 times, while only dishing out nine assists.
"I'm not satisfied-and the rest of our team isn't-with the way we won," Nelson said. "We didn't play 40 minutes the way we can. Until we do, I think everyone in this locker room is not going to be satisfied. It's not winning or losing, it's the standard that we play at and the way we win."
After beating Holy Cross Wednesday, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski improves to 2-4 all-time against the Crusaders. His four losses to Holy Cross came when he was head coach at Army, now a Patriot League rival.... With its win Wednesday, combined with Oklahoma's 67-51 loss to Villanova in Norman, Duke now holds the nation's longest non-conference home winning streak with 47 consecutive victories.
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