LAHAINA, Hawaii - The Blue Devils seemed like they couldn't miss against Princeton. Or maybe it was just that Kyle Singler wouldn't let them.
In just more than four minutes, the 6-foot-8 freshman forward scored 10 of Duke's first 12 points, with seven of those coming off putbacks. Ripping apart the Tigers' 2-3 zone, Singler paced the No. 13 Blue Devils (3-0) in an 83-61 rout of Princeton (2-1) Monday evening in the first round of the Maui Invitational.
"[Singler] is fun to watch," Tigers head coach Sydney Johnson said. "He's got a great skill level-the Duke mystique, if you will-he plays hard, too. It's fun to see him compete. We had trouble keeping him off the boards, and he was relentless in going."
But the rookie Singler-whom head coach Mike Krzyzewski said has played like a veteran-did more than crash the boards en route to 21 points and 12 rebounds, his first career double-double.
At the 18:11 mark of the first half, Singler drew a hard foul while pounding in his second of two buckets off DeMarcus Nelson misses and then converted the free-throw for a 5-2 lead. On the next possession, the versatile freshman stepped back behind the arc on the left baseline and nailed a three with an easy rip of the net.
The Blue Devils went into halftime leading 52-31.
In the opening period, Singler, in conjuction with a high-pressure Duke defense that forced 10 Tiger turnovers, opened up the floor for the offense to run and for Gerald Henderson's acrobatics around the basket.
Already up 20-4 seven minutes in, Henderson drove to the middle of the paint, elevated over the Tiger defenders and drained his soaring jumper, despite being fouled. On the next play, the athletic forward flashed to the basket from the right baseline and slammed home an alley-oop from freshman Nolan Smith.
This faster-paced, more assertive approach on offense showed not only in Monday night's score but also in the team's demeanor on the floor. In front of a Blue Devil-friendly crowd of 2,400, the players looked like they were having fun.
"A style of play that really lends itself for everyone to play to each other's strengths really makes the game fun," senior captain DeMarcus Nelson said. "This is about making easy plays. Everyone using each other's strengths, knowing your own individual game and then incorporating it into the team game."
With 10 players logging double-digit minutes against Princeton-and the bench playing 86 minutes and scoring 30 points collectively-the Blue Devils were able to maintain their higher tempo on offense.
Krzyzewski, however, was not entirely pleased with his team's intensity on defense, particularly that of his bench players. The Tigers shot 48 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from behind the arc in the second half. While he acknowledged that his team is young and playing in its first major tournament, the coach said his bench players must improve if Duke wants to win its fourth Maui Invitational title.
The Blue Devils' record-tying 10th win in the Invitational advances them to a 9:30 p.m semifinal matchup Tuesday against Illinois (3-0).
Junior Dave McClure saw his first playing time of the season Monday night since having surgery on his knee in August. The 6-foot-6 forward clocked eight minutes and pulled down one rebound.
"He's had a good week," Krzyzewski said. "He's practiced every day. We've got to get him involved.... He's an important player, and we want him to play."
Notable Dukies in the crowd
Hundreds of Blue Devil fans made the trip to Maui this week. Former NBA head coach and current TNT basketball analyst Doug Collins, father of Duke assistant coach Chris Collins, was in the stands Monday night, one row in front of Herb Neubauer-better known as Crazy Towel Guy.
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