Duke

Freshmen help No. 4 Duke open with 113-44 romp over Presbyterian

The Duke bench explodes in the closing seconds of the game against the Blue Hose as center Duke center Marshall Plumlee hits a 3-pointer. Celebrating left to right are Jahlil Okafor, Amile Jefferson, Justise Winslow, and Quinn Cook .
The Duke bench explodes in the closing seconds of the game against the Blue Hose as center Duke center Marshall Plumlee hits a 3-pointer. Celebrating left to right are Jahlil Okafor, Amile Jefferson, Justise Winslow, and Quinn Cook . cliddy@newsobserver.com

Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor said he had a tough time sleeping before the Blue Devils’ first game.

A lot of opposing coaches might have the same problem before playing Duke.

The Blue Devils, ranked fourth nationally, cruised past outmanned Presbyterian 113-44 Friday in the Coaches vs Cancer Classic at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It was 40 minutes of 3-pointers, power dunks, heady passes and near-flawless offensive execution – the Blue Devils had 30 assists and hit 16 3-pointers – along with the usual Duke defensive grittiness and willingness to work.

Much was made of the three freshmen who started for Duke: Okafor, who had a game-high 19 points, guard Tyus Jones and forward Justise Winslow. The three were impressive, but it was Duke’s depth, enthusiasm and potential that had veteran Presbyterian coach Gregg Nibert raving.

“They’ll be scary,” Nibert said. “They’ll be scary in March.”

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is college basketball’s winningest coach and is beginning his 35th season with the Blue Devils. If anyone has a feel for what a really good team looks like, it’s Krzyzewski.

“I like our team a lot,” he said. “We’re just young. Six of these guys are freshmen and sophomores, and they have to find out who they are in really good competition. We’re going to be in some really tough games and I just hope we keep learning.

“We were really good tonight, but we’re very much more talented (then Presbyterian). If we’re playing real hard we should win big, and so we have to be able to do that against really good people and keep up that consistency. I do think these are the kind of kids that will want to do that and I really like playing the style we’re playing.”

The game was decided from the time Okafor won the opening jump. The Blue Hose, 6-26 last season, was outmatched at every position.

Jones had the distinction of scoring Duke’s first five points on a baseline drive and 3-pointer, Okafor soon was at it with a dunk and bank shot and Winslow had a putback and 3-pointer in back-to-back possessions.

By halftime, it was 57-19, Duke. The Blue Hose scored the first two baskets of the second half, causing Krzyzewski to briefly frown and cross his arms, but the Blue Devils soon were back to forcing turnovers and hitting shots, closing at 60.9 percent from the field.

Ten players scored for Duke and 10 had at least one assist. Freshman guard Grayson Allen had 18 points, and Winslow and Jones 15 each as six players finished in double figures.

“We’re a very versatile team and have a lot of guys who can score and we’re very unselfish,” Winslow said. “That’s one thing that will eventually wear down some teams. With our depth and our ability to score in so many different ways, it’s going to make this a very fun year.”

For Winslow, it was fun streaking down the lane on an inbounds play for a lob dunk that had the arena rumbling. Or Allen hustling for a steal and dunk, falling to the floor but coming away with a smile.

The Blue Devils will host Fairfield at 8 p.m. Saturday, and also will play Michigan State, Temple and Stanford or Nevada-Las Vegas within the next eight days.

“We’re a young team and we have to keep building chemistry on the court,” Krzyzewski said. “We’ll see who we are after those eight days.”

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