CHARLOTTE After arguably its worst half of the season, Duke found itself tied with Davidson after one half.
That changed quickly.
The No. 1 Blue Devils went on to beat the Wildcats 67-50 thanks to a 12-0 run to open the second half. Davidson (7-6) went six minutes before it finally hit a second-half shot.
With the score tied 29-29 at halftime, Mason Plumlee scored the first points of the half on a strong drive to the basket. He missed the ensuing free throw, but Ryan Kelly converted both free throws after he drew a foul, and Quinn Cook hit a jumper to put Duke up 35-29 with 15 minutes, 47 seconds left in the game. Tyler Thornton and Ryan Kelly then hit back-to-back 3s to put Duke ahead 41-29.
During that stretch, the Wildcats went 0-for-5 with four turnovers. Chris Czerapowicz finally made Davidsons first basket of the second half with 13 minutes, 31 seconds left in the game.
The initial second-half spurt by Duke (13-0) was part of a larger 19-5 run. Davidson shot 2-for-11 to open during that stretch.
Davidson wasnt done, thought. A Tyler Kalinoski 3-pointer cut Dukes lead to single digits with 9 minutes, 11 seconds left to play. DeMon Brooks hit a jumper in the paint over Plumlee, but Plumlee dunked the ball on the other end. After Jake Cohen hit a 3, Plumlee came back with a hook shot to put Duke back up 10 at 52-42.
The Wildcats were never able to close the gap to single digits over the rest of the way.
Duke was able to win despite an off night from Plumlee, a leading player of the year candidate. Plumlee scored a season-low 10 points and was 4-for-7 from the field. Duke especially struggled to find Plumlee in the low post in the first half. The big man finished with two points, on 1-of-2 shooting, with four rebounds and four turnovers in the opening half. For the game, he finished with seven boards, four fouls and six turnovers.
Ryan Kelly tied his season high with 18 points (he put up the same number against Davidson). Cook added 15, 13 in the second half, and Thornton had 10 points as well.
Duke finished with just one assist in the first 20 minutes of play, as the offense struggled to find any consistent rhythm.
Charlotte native Seth Curry received the biggest pregame cheer from the spilt allegiance crowd at the Time Warner Cable Area. He misfired on his first two shots before connecting on his third and opening the scoring for Duke. Curry finished with six points after scoring 31 against Santa Clara.
Jake Cohen scored the Wildcats first two points but then quickly headed to the bench after picking up two fouls in the games first three minutes.
Davidson took a 14-11 lead with 12:08 left in the first half when two offensive rebounds extended a possession that ended with a Czerapowicz 3-pointer. In the first nine minutes of the game, the Wildcats pulled down four offensive rebounds and 10 total rebounds, compared to Dukes six defensive boards (and this was without the 6-foot-10 Cohen).
The Blue Devils used a 6-0 run to retake the lead at 17-16. After starting the game 1-for-5, Curry found the baskets on back-to-back possessions for Duke.
A quick Davidson spurt retied the game with less than a minute remaining in the half. Kalinoski nailed a 3-pointer. On the ensuing Duke possession,
Plumlee found himself alone in the low post with Cohen, playing with two fouls. Plumlee hesitated, though, missing the shot and not drawing a foul. De'Mon Brooks pulled down an offensive reboundthe ninth of the half for Davidsonand converted the basket for the 29-29 tie.
Davidson shot just 32.4 percent from the field (11-for-34), but recorded 14 second-chance points in the first half. Duke had zero in that span. The Blue Devils, though, showed a marked improvement in that area in the final half, as it was Davidson scored just two second-chance points.
With the win over the Wildcats, Duke successfully completed its nonconference schedule. ACC play is next, with Wake Forest coming to town Saturday.