Led by 19 points from Rodney Hood and 16 points from Jabari Parker, the Blue Devils rolled Bowie State 103-67 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"It was exciting, getting a chance to assimilate into the season, get a chance to see different opponents instead of our own teammates during practices," Parker said. "I think we picked it up during the second half and we came through with a big win."
In the early going, it was all Parker. He accounted for Duke's first six points, scoring in a variety of ways. The freshman drilled his first 3-point attempt, hit 1-of-2 free throws and threw down a thunderous dunk over a Bulldog defender.
After a slow start, Hood came on strong late in the first half. He finished the first half with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting and led the Blue Devils with five rebounds.
"Rodney played really well," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He was so excited for this game—he was throwing up before the game not because he was sick, but because he wanted to do well."
Parker and Hood also acted as distributors for the Duke offense, which passed the ball well in the first half. The Blue Devils tallied 12 assists on 16 first-half field goals, with Parker, Hood and Tyler Thornton each dishing out three apiece.
"We were really good at sharing the ball," Krzyzewski said. "I was impressed by our unseflishness. Not to say that we're selfish, but they saw guys, our spacing was really good and they looked for one another."
Bowie State kept the game close in the early going, matching Duke's up-tempo style with transition scoring of their own. Guards Ray Gatling and Zafir Williams were able to find room to operate, slicing through Duke's defense to dish to teammates down low, scoring 24 points in the paint in the first half and 38 for the game.
"This game wasn't a game that was going to define who we were as a team," Bowie State head coach Darrell Brooks said. "We felt like it was a directional game that was going to tell us what direction we were headed in as a team. I think we passed that test."
Krzyzewski was impressed by the competitiveness of the Bulldogs, who play in Division II's Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Bowie State out-rebounded Duke 17-15 in the first half.
"[They'll] give you their very best," Krzyzewski said. "It's their day in the sun, their day to play in a historic place against a program that's been really good. To play against that, it's not an offense or defense, it's an attitude that you play against."
Behind the play of Hood, Duke was able to stretch the lead near the end of the half and went to the locker room with a 54-40 edge. But Duke's 14-point halftime cushion could have been much larger. The Blue Devils were just 17-for-26 from the free-throw line in the opening 20 minutes and finished the game 34-for-50.
"We started off a little slow, but once we got into a rhythym, [we] started hitting our free throws and got to moving, it felt good," Hood said.
In the second half, Duke pulled away from the Bulldogs, led by Parker and sophomore Amile Jefferson. Each scored six points in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
"In the second half, they turned it up another notch," Brooks said. "They went up another level on the elevator and we missed that elevator. For a five or six minute stretch, they really forced us out of running our offense."
Jefferson and freshman Matt Jones each added 15 points for the Blue Devils.
Krzyzewski emphasized that the transition to the up-tempo system is still a work in progress, but said he liked what he saw Saturday.
"The older guys are learning, and they don't teach as much," Krzyzewski said. "When you have older guys who have played a system that you've played, they can help the younger guys make adjustment. We're all learning this new, faster way of playing."
Defensive tenacity was another key for the Blue Devils, who played man-to-man full court pressure for the entire game. Duke forced Bowie State into 15 first-half turnovers, converting them into 14 points. The Blue Devils faced similar pressure from the Bulldogs, but handled it well, committing just nine turnovers for the game.
In the second half, the always-scrappy Thornton stole an inbounds pass under the Duke basket and flipped it to Jones with one hand for a lay-up. Thornton then stole the ensuing inbounds pass as well, leading to a pair of Duke free throw attempts.
An aggressive Marshall Plumlee had a strong showing in the second half for the Blue Devils, The redshirt sophomore had two emphatic blocks, and drew three fouls on Bulldog defenders on limited touches down low. He hit five of the resulting six free throws, and dropped in a smooth jump hook, finishing with seven points.
With Class of 2014 recruits Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow in attendance, Krzyzewski credited the fans with creating an exciting atmosphere, even for an exhibition game.
"They're part of us. That's been the beauty of coaching here," Krzyzewski said. "They're a huge part of what we do. They're known worldwide."