DURHAM — Ordinarily, a one-point win at home for Duke over a team from the Atlantic Sun Conference would have coach Mike Krzyzewski scratching his head.
But after his inexperienced, No. 6-ranked Blue Devils eked out a 77-76 defeat of a Belmont team thats formidable despite being relatively unknown, Krzyzewski had a message for Dukes supporters.
Im pleased with my team, he said after the season opener. Our fans should understand that we played a really outstanding basketball team tonight, just in case they dont understand that.
An excellent all-around game from junior forward Mason Plumlee and a huge 3-pointer by junior guard Andre Dawkins helped Duke survive after a 16-point, second-half lead was whittled to one point.
Plumlee scored 13 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and handed out a career-high six assists.
I think thats what Im capable of, he said. If I can do it from all areas it makes me more valuable, obviously.
On the most important play of the game, Seth Curry drove and passed the ball out to Dawkins to the right of the top of the key coming out of a timeout with Duke ahead by a point.
Dawkins had missed all four of his 3-point attempts, but never hesitated. He swished a 3-pointer with 17 seconds remaining for a 75-71 lead.
I always have confidence in my shot regardless of how Im shooting for the day, Dawkins said. There was no hesitation on the shot. I know my teammates and my coaching staff want me to shoot the ball, so I was just glad I was able to knock it down.
Ryan Kelly iced the game with two free throws with 7.1 seconds left, and Belmont made a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer. The win gave Krzyzewski 901 in his career.
A win in todays 4:30 p.m. game against Presbyterian at Cameron would tie Krzyzewski with mentor Bob Knight, who holds the Division I career record with 902 wins.
The latest win demonstrated that a Duke team that has just one senior has flaws but is capable of defeating a quality opponent in a high-pressure situation.
Although Belmont doesnt have the name recognition of a college basketball power, the Bruins returned four players who started in the NCAA tournament for a team that went 30-5 last season.
Junior Seth Curry and freshman Austin Rivers each scored 16 points to lead Duke, but the Blue Devils committed 19 turnovers. Duke was outrebounded 35-34 and missed two key box outs on Belmont free throw attempts.
We had a few possessions where you say, What are we doing, what are we doing? Krzyzewski said. Some of that has to do with their pressure. And some of it has to do with our immaturity.
Nonetheless, Krzyzewski said Dukes players grew up Friday night. That made him happy, and he wanted to make sure the Blue Devils fans understood the value of that one-point win.
Tysiac: 919-829-8942, or @kentysiac on Twitter