Duke averts letdown with easy win Sunday

Fewer than 48 hours after capturing the 2K Sports Classic title, the Blue Devils showed few signs of a post-title hangover Sunday afternoon in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Playing its third game in four days, Duke (6-0) overpowered Montana (2-2) 78-58 to cap a successful weekend. Although a slight letdown Sunday would not have been surprising given the short rest between games, the Blue Devils jumped ahead in the first half behind an energetic burst on both sides of the ball.

"The main thing that we can take away from this is that we finished the three-game stretch strong," said sophomore Kyle Singler, who finished with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists. "It was a long week for us with two games up in New York and flying back and having a quick turnaround for Montana. Coach [Krzyzewski] said you can lose your poise, so we just came out with a lot of enthusiasm."

The eight-minute burst midway through the first half resulted in a 27-7 run for Duke, which pushed its lead up to 16 points with more than five minutes left in the half.

In particular, the boost came from two of Duke's stars from New York, Singler and sophomore Nolan Smith.

With the Blue Devils struggling to pull ahead early in the first half, Singler sparked the offense by converting a steal into a layup on the other end of the floor. On the basket, Singler was fouled and proceeded to sink the free throw for the three-point play to put Duke ahead 18-13.

After Singler won Most Valuable Player honors Friday for averaging 16.5 points and 7.8 rebounds over the tournament's four games, his performance Sunday furthered his progress as Duke's go-to scoring threat.

Although Singler was leading the Blue Devils in scoring midway through the first half Sunday, head coach Mike Krzyzewski put the forward on the bench because he wanted to see as many different combinations as possible, Krzyzewski said after the game.

As a sign of Krzyzewski's insistence on giving liberal minutes to his reserves, 10 players played more than 10 minutes Sunday.

The heavy reliance on the bench contributed to Duke scoring relatively fewer points in the second half. While the Blue Devils tallied 47 points in the first half, the team only mustered 31 points after the break.

But it didn't matter because of the 47-28 lead Singler and Smith helped develop before the intermission.

After Singler went to the bench in the midst of the first half run, Smith picked up the slack by putting on a one-man show at the point. In a span of fewer than three minutes, Smith hit four field goals, scored all of Duke's points and exploited the Blue Devils' advantage in talent and speed by pushing the ball up the floor and keying Duke in transition.

Along with junior Gerald Henderson, Smith led the Blue Devils with 14 points on the afternoon. Henderson also chipped in seven rebounds, as did center Brian Zoubek. Power forward Lance Thomas paced Duke on the boards with a game-high eight.

Smith's play at point guard was particularly important because senior Greg Paulus did not play Sunday because of a right forearm contusion. It was the first game the point guard has missed in his career.

After the game, Krzyzewski said he chose to rest Paulus hoping that the extra time off would help heal his bruised wrist. Paulus wore a sleeve on his right forearm and only scored eight points in limited action in Duke's last three games.

With Paulus out, Krzyzewski said he wanted Smith to work on the things that would make him a better leader running the offense.

"It changed my approach a bit today, because I knew I had to talk a lot more," Smith said. "Greg's a leader vocally, and he's always talking. I knew without him that I had to pick up my talk."


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