The independent news organization of Duke University

Blowout 1st half pushes Duke past St. John's

NEW YORK - For the fourth straight game Duke jumped out to a comfortable first-half lead against its opponent.

In each of the previous three, the Blue Devils allowed the opposing team to cut the lead to single digits in the second-half of each game.

This time, No. 18 Duke (22-7) had no trouble keeping its opponent at bay, defeating St. John's (15-14), 67-50, before a crowd of 17,283 at Madison Square Garden.

The Blue Devils started quickly and led the Red Storm 7-0 before St. John's was forced to take its first timeout just more than 2:30 into the game. Quickly the lead grew to 12-0, and it eventually bloomed to as much as 26 with 2:44 remaining in the half.

Greg Paulus led Duke with 19 points, including 5-of-7 shooting from three-point range, and DeMarcus Nelson chipped in 14 points. Paulus' 11 first-half points were more than the 10 points the entire Red Storm squad posted during the game's opening 20 minutes. It was the second-fewest points allowed in a half under head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

"We were concerned coming into the game," Krzyzewski said. "We had just played three very emotional games in our conference when we were 5-6 and won all three-two of them away. With the young team we have, I was worried about letting up. We didn't."

Defense has been the Blue Devils' staple all season, but the defensive output in the first half Sunday surpassed any effort all year. In addition to holding St. John's to only 10 points, Duke held the Red Storm to only 13.6 percent from the field while forcing 11 turnovers.

The Blue Devils also held the Red Storm's two leading scorers, Lamont Hamilton and Anthony Mason, Jr., to a combined two points in the first half. McRoberts owned the paint defensively in the period, shutting down Hamilton and blocking four shots. The forward finished with nine points, six rebounds and six blocks.

"We take pride in our defense," McRoberts said. "In the first half our defense was great for us. We were able to get off to a quick start with our defense and turn that into offense."

Sunday, the Blue Devils converted three of the Red Storm's first four turnovers into field goals, including a jaw-dropping reverse slam by McRoberts after the forward had stripped St. John's guard Eugene Lawrence.

In the second half, the Blue Devils allowed the Red Storm a little more breathing room on the offensive end as Duke allowed 40 points. Nonetheless, the Blue Devils never allowed the lead to reach single digits, and the outcome of the game was never in doubt. Mason, Jr.'s two free throws with 4:15 remaining cut the Blue Devils' lead to 51-39, but St. John's was unable to get any closer.

"We would have liked to play a little better in the second half," Nelson said. "But we couldn't play that type of defense the whole game without a team making adjustments, players getting comfortable within the game and then them starting to hit shots."

Despite allowing the Red Storm some opportunities to score in the second half, Nelson said he was pleased with how the Blue Devils played overall as the team returns to ACC play Wednesday against Maryland.

"We're finding out who we are at the most important part of the season," Nelson said. "This is the time of the season where we want to start peaking. I think we're getting better, our defense is very good for us and our offense is really starting to flow.

Although the game was a break from the team's rigorous ACC schedule, it was not a break from travel. Duke has played four of its last five games away from Cameron Indoor Stadium and Krzyzewski said that he feels like the team has been on the road all month.

"It is always great to play in this venue," Krzyzewski said. "It's a bigger venue like when you play in the NCAA Tournament.. It's a rehearsal. March is bigger games and we are constantly getting our team ready for that."


In two games at Madison Square Garden this year, Paulus is averaging 19.5 points.... Duke's three high school commitments-Taylor King, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith-were all named McDonald's All-Americans Sunday. The Blue Devils' last remaining recruiting target, Patrick Patterson, also received the honor.


Share and discuss “Blowout 1st half pushes Duke past St. John's” on social media.