Duke Now

Duke has little problem with Iona in first round of NCAA tourney; will play Rhode Island Saturday

The Duke bench explodes as reserve forward Justin Robinson (50) dunks the ball in the closing seconds of their win over Iona.
The Duke bench explodes as reserve forward Justin Robinson (50) dunks the ball in the closing seconds of their win over Iona. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Duke had little trouble with Iona, its first round opponent in the NCAA tournament, on Thursday.

The No. 2 seeded Blue Devils dominated the No. 15 seeded Gaels on offense and cruised to an 89-67 win. Duke starts four freshman, but none appeared like the moment was too big for them. Three of the four freshman scored at least 16 points.

Iona had no answers for Duke freshman Marvin Bagley III - not that many teams have answers for him. But Bagley, the ACC's Player and Rookie of the Year, dominated. He finished with 22 points and 7 rebounds. He was 10-for-14 from the floor.

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"It was exciting," Bagley said about his first tournament game. "Finally to be here, be apart of this big tournament that everybody watches. It was a great experience, and I'm glad I got to experience it with the rest of the guys."

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Freshman point guard Trevon Duval, who twisted his ankle in Duke's semifinal loss to UNC last week, looked like he had no issues. Duval, who is a 27 percent 3-point shooter, was 4-for-5 from behind the 3-point line and finished with 19 points and eight assists.

"I had open shots, and I was confident to take them," Duval said. "That came from my teammates because they were confident in me. They passed me the ball and told me to shoot and I was open."

Freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. added 16 points, and senior guard Grayson Allen had 16 points and nine assists.

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Duke (27-7) will move onto the second round of the NCAA tournament and will play Rhode Island (26-7) on Saturday. Rhode Island beat Oklahoma 83-79 in overtime on Thursday.

Duke had success in its zone. Early in the game, Iona (20-14) just didn't give Duke a chance to get set. The Gaels' pushed the ball up the floor and knocked down their shots.

Through the first six and a half minutes of the game, Duke and Iona combined to shoot 14-for-21 from the floor. The score at that point was 19-17, but Iona cooled off and Duke stayed hot.

A Duval layup with 9:18 left in the first half started a 17-3 run for the Blue Devils over the next four minutes and Duke took a 15-point lead. Six minutes later, at halftime, Duke led Iona 53-39. Duke was shooting 62 percent at halftime.

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Duke never really slowed down. The Blue Devils started the second half of a 9-2 run and never looked back. They led by as many as 27 points.

Since the NCAA went to a 64-team tournament in 1985, Duke is now 29-4 in first round games.

Alexander, 919-829-4822; Twitter: @jonmalexander