CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Following the Blue Devils' second straight loss to begin conference play Wednesday night, head coach Mike Krzyzewski told the media his players did not inherit wins simply by putting on a Duke uniform. The young squad had to learn how to win.
Until they did, the Blue Devils were stripped of the right to wear Duke apparel. They practiced in unmarked pinnies and the captains elected to travel wearing suits. They had to earn back the privilege of adorning their Duke clothing.
After several days of hard practices and the coaches' motivational ploys, the then-No. 11 Blue Devils (14-3, 1-2 in the ACC) took care of business and proved their mettle in a convincing 86-63 victory over Miami (9-9, 2-2) Sunday at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Fla.
"We hate to lose-we're good sports, but we hate to lose," junior guard DeMarcus Nelson said. "Losing is not acceptable for us players and for this program. When we lose we take losses hard. We came down here with a business approach and with one thing on our mind-to come down here and win."
Led by the steady shooting of sophomore Greg Paulus and freshman Jon Scheyer, winning is exactly what the Blue Devils did.
Duke shot 81 percent in the first half to stake a 49-40 halftime lead. During the first 20 minutes, Paulus made each of his three-point attempts and Scheyer was a perfect 4-for-4, including three trifectas, as Duke missed just four of its 21 shots.
"Isn't that ironic?" head coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the best first-half shooting percentage in school history. "We've been probably the worst offensive team I've had for a while so far [this season]."
The Blue Devil offense looked nothing like the anemic attack of recent games. Instead, Duke forced turnovers that led to 11 first-half fast-break points, the guards drove the lane and Scheyer and Paulus knocked down both open and contested looks from long range.
Miami guard Anthony Harris closed an early Duke lead to just one point after converting a four-point play with 12:35 left in the first half. But Scheyer hit a three, Josh McRoberts hit a baseline jumper and Paulus hit another three amid a 14-4 run that helped Duke build a 30-19 lead.
The Blue Devils extended their lead to 49-35 with less than a minute left in the first half. But over the final 25 seconds, Hurricanes' leading scorer Jack McClinton nailed a three-pointer and Keaton Copeland stripped Scheyer of the ball and took it the other way for a layup at the buzzer to close the gap to nine points. It was McClinton's only field goal of the game, as he was held to a season-low five points.
Despite Duke's poor play over the final minute of the half, Krzyzewski said he was pleased with his team's first-half performance and the mindset with which they attacked Miami from the start.
"One thing we thought we could have been better at the last two games was just mentally playing with more confidence and with the Duke swagger," Nelson said. "As a team we were more together, we fought harder together, we played with more intensity, and that all starts mentally."
Duke came out with the same aggressiveness after the break, and a dunk by Lance Thomas at the 11:55 mark extended the Blue Devils' lead to the largest of the game at 23 points, 68-45.
Miami mounted a small run to close within 15 at the five-minute mark. Minutes later, however, McRoberts caught a Nelson alley-oop and slammed in a reverse jam, accentuating Duke's largest margin of victory since Nov. 25.
After the game, Krzyzewski reiterated that half of the players in his rotation were playing in just their third ACC contest and that the squad needs to develop its own identity without living under the expectations of former Blue Devil teams.
"Certain things have been handed to Duke in the past and just because we play for Duke doesn't mean we're automatically going to win," Scheyer said. "That's something we had to realize after losing those first two games."
Duke's 68.3 field goal percentage was the eighth highest in school history and best since 1994.. Thomas recorded his first assist of the season, hitting Nelson for a fast-break dunk on the second basket of the game.. Scheyer was a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line.. Sophomore Dave McClure finished with a game-high 11 rebounds as Duke won the rebounding battle, 32-16.
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