The line to enter Cameron Indoor Stadium snaked around Krzyzewskiville Wednesday, filled with people eager not only to watch No. 2 Duke, but also to see how the prolific Stephen Curry and his pesky Davidson squad would perform in a primetime game.
And when Davidson seemed within reach of completing an improbable comeback, all eyes were glued to Curry-perhaps the college game's closest thing to a superstar-as he brought the ball up looking to take another bite out of Duke's 11-point lead with 1:22 to play. After fighting back the whole half, Curry directed play on what was likely Davidson's most critical possession.
But it was the Blue Devils' own No. 30 who came through with the game's biggest play.
Jon Scheyer pick-pocketed Curry and drained a 3-pointer on the other end. It was the exclamation mark on a brilliant night for the junior captain, who carried Duke on his back throughout the second half with three 3-pointers and 17 total points-the rest of the team combined for 25-and proved critical in Duke's ability to stave off Davidson's furious rally.
"Plays need to be made, and opportunities were there. I had my shots and got some drives," said Scheyer, who finished with 22 points. "When we move the ball like that-whether it's me, or Kyle [Singler], or [Gerald Henderson] or whoever-we can have some good opportunities to make some plays like that."
Duke executed some of its best basketball all season in the opening minutes of the second half, exploiting Davidson's help-happy defense by driving the lane and kicking out. Thanks to three 3-pointers-one each for Henderson, Scheyer and Singler-in the first three minutes, the Blue Devils' 15-point halftime lead ballooned to 25, and the Wildcats appeared dead in the water.
But it was only a matter of time before Curry caught fire.
After a strong defensive effort in the first half, in which seemingly every Blue Devil got his chance to cover the crafty marksman with a hand in his face as soon as he crossed midcourt, Curry managed to explode for 21 second half points.
Known for his deadly long-range shooting, the junior guard finished only 1-for-8 from behind the arc. Instead, he made his points curling off screens in the lane and weaving through Duke's transition defense, which suffered a few lapses, such as failing to mark Curry at all as he ran coast-to-coast for a thunderous, poster-worthy dunk.
At one point, the Wildcats scored on seven straight possessions en route to a 23-6 run. When forward Andrew Lovedale's layup brought Davidson within eight with 3:32 remaining, head coach Mike Krzyzewski called a timeout to remind his players to stay calm even as the crowd seemed to be on edge.
"They were definitely making a run at us," Scheyer said. "The main thing for us in that situation-we are still up [eight], and I think it kind of seemed for some reason that we were losing or it was tied. We still had an [eight-point] lead, so for us we should be aggressive and shoot our shots confidently. That's something we need to keep in mind, because teams are going to make runs like that on us."
The timeout proved to be the perfect antidote and Scheyer emerged again the late-game hero, as the Blue Devils outscored Davidson 10-6, six of which came from Scheyer.
And even though the many watchful eyes were treated to a solid show from the nation's leading scorer, whose 29 points were especially impressive considering how conspicuously absent he seemed in the first half, Duke was relatively pleased with its defensive performance.
"You just don't know what he's going to do. He's very dangerous with the ball," Singler said. "It's talking. You got to talk.... I think we just kind of let up [during the middle of the second half], but relaxed isn't the word. I thought we played a good, solid 30 minutes of basketball."
And afterward, Duke's fans left buzzing about a player wearing No. 30-he just wasn't the one they were expecting to rave about.
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