GREENSBORO, N.C.—Facing the daunting task of winning five games in five days to keep their season alive, the Blue Devils did the only thing they could do Tuesday afternoon: win the first one.
Tenth-seeded Duke was dialed in from the opening tipoff and cruised to an opening-round 86-51 victory against No. 15 seed Boston College Tuesday afternoon in the Greensboro Coliseum. Because of the team’s inexperience and last season’s cancellations, the Blue Devils entered the contest with only Joey Baker and Jordan Goldwire having played in postseason games for Duke, but head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s young squad simply took care of business in a do-or-die situation.
"Just excited," Krzyzewski said on his young team's mindset heading into the postseason. "DJ [Steward] has had a smile on his face for two days. He's just geeked, he's so excited. It's neat for the 74-year-old guy to see these young guys get excited. And that's after losing a few games at the end of the season. So they were able to put that behind them and just play with enthusiasm."
The Blue Devils made a season-high 15 threes on the day, including a career-high four from Goldwire for 12 points. Steward led Duke with 17 points and four assists, while Mark Williams chipped in 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor.
While the Eagles were able to keep a 14-point halftime deficit at bay for some of the second half, the Blue Devils separated things for good thanks to an 11-2 run highlighted by two 3-pointers from Goldwire, giving Duke a 60-38 lead with 12:31 remaining.
With fans not allowed inside Cameron Indoor Stadium this year and Duke (12-11) playing in its first neutral site game of the season, the Blue Devils finally got a chance to play in front of a crowd with a majority of their supporters. Duke seemed to feed off the energy early and raced out to a 10-2 lead in the opening minutes.
"It's nice," Williams said on having a pro-Duke crowd. "It's been a while since I've felt that feeling. But you know it's always nice to play in front of fans."
Boston College (4-16) gave the Blue Devils quite a scare in the two teams' first meeting Jan. 6, as Duke needed some heroics from Wendell Moore Jr. to escape with a one-point home win. The big reason for the Eagles' success that day was a 56.3% mark from deep, but the rims at the Greensboro Coliseum were far less kind to Boston College, which finished 1-of-15 from beyond the arc.
This historic ACC venue has usually been a home away from home for the Blue Devils, and it showed in their shooting splits. Five different players combined for eight 3-pointers in the first half for Duke, while Williams contributed with his usual efficiency in the paint. Steward and Williams led the solid offensive effort in the opening frame with 13 and 11 points, respectively, in the first 20 minutes.
"We came here yesterday," Krzyzewski said. "We drove in to do our 45-minute practice just to get a good feel because we knew there wouldn't be hardly any warmup for our game. The perimeter really shot the ball well yesterday. Sometimes you do that the day before the game and not the day of, but it seemed to carry over."
A putback dunk from Steward and late triple from Goldwire put an exclamation point on the first half and the Blue Devils headed to the locker room with a 41-27 lead.
"I feel like this is a good game for us to build our confidence and trust in each other," Steward said. "I feel like we had a lot of assists out there. It's a great game for us going into a dogfight tomorrow versus Louisville."
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Out of the break, Duke didn’t exactly pick up where it left off, surrendering nine layups at the rim over the second half’s opening eight minutes. But ultimately, the Blue Devil offense was just too much for the Eagles to overcome.
Thanks to Duke’s comfortable win, the Blue Devils did not have a single player log at least 30 minutes in the game, just the second time that has happened this year. Krzyzewski found important rest for the team as it attempts to stretch out back-to-back games.
"We're all just going to have to take care of our bodies playing game after game," Williams said. "It's going to be tough. Definitely just taking care of our bodies is important. And just getting rest and then going from there."
The Blue Devils hit the floor once again tomorrow for a battle with No. 7 seed Louisville, the two teams’ third matchup of the year. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m as Duke looks for its first win against the Cardinals of the season.
"The Greensboro Coliseum is about moments," Krzyzewski said on what he told his squad before the tournament. "I said [to the team], 'Try to have a moment tomorrow, and if we have the moment tomorrow, maybe we'll have another one.' Don't look at it as five games or anything like that, just try to take advantage of each day that we're given the opportunity to play."