College Sports

Duke advances to the Sweet 16 with big win over Rhode Island

Duke's Marvin Bagley and Grayson Allen weigh in on Bagley's performance against Rhode Island

After Duke's Marvin Bagley lll downplays his role in the Blue Devils' NCAA Tournament win over Rhode Island, Grayson Allen jumps in to assess the freshman's performance.
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After Duke's Marvin Bagley lll downplays his role in the Blue Devils' NCAA Tournament win over Rhode Island, Grayson Allen jumps in to assess the freshman's performance.

Duke knew that anything was possible in the NCAA tournament, and that it could be beaten at any time no matter the team.

Just ask the top overall seed Virginia, which lost to 16th seeded UMBC on Friday night — the first time a 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1 seed.

In the Round of 32, the Blue Devils playing against No. 7 seed Rhode Island, made sure that didn't happen to them.

Led by a balanced effort from its starters, Duke got out to an early 17-point halftime lead on the Rams. All of Duke's starters scored in double figures as the Blue Devils won 87-62 to advance to the Sweet 16 in the Midwest Region in Omaha, Neb.

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Duke freshman forward Marvin Bagley III led all scorers with 22 points. Freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. had 18 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Duke's Marvin Bagley lll tells reporters that he's quickly learned that any game can be your last in his first NCAA Tournament.

URI (26-8), which has five seniors, had hoped to upset Duke (28-7). The Rams' head coach Dan Hurley, former Duke guard Bob Hurley's brother, said the plan was to knock down open 3's in Duke's zone. But its 3-pointers weren't falling until late in the second half, when the Blue Devils' lead was too big to recover from.

Duke's biggest advantage was in the post. The Ram's tallest starter was 6-8 and the Blue Devils took advantage of it early on by feeding the 6-11 Bagley and 6-10 freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr., who had 13 points and six rebounds.

Duke guard Gary Trent Jr. (2) goes in to score in the first half against Rhode Island. Chuck Liddy

The Blue Devils also knocked down its 3-pointers, going 10-for-21 from behind the arc.

“We can't assume anything, got to worry about that one game,” Bagley said. "Have your minds focused on that one thing, take it one day at a time because tomorrow's never promised in this tournament.

“That's one thing that I, myself and the rest of my teammates talk about and understand, is that we don't want any game to be our last one together unless it's the last one.”

Rhode Island took a 7-2 lead early in the game. Duke had turned the ball over four times in the first five minutes and 10 seconds of the game.

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But the Blue Devils went on an 18-3 run with a little less than seven minutes left in the first half to go up by 17 points.

"I thought we were a little bit nervous at the start of the game, and we didn't have the looks that we then had for 36 minutes," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "And I thought we made this one sub, Javin (DeLaurier) for (Trevon Duval). And then when Tre got back in the game the second time, then he was who he's been for the last couple of weeks. And we were playing the zone pretty well."

In the second half, Rhode Island still had no answer for Duke's offense, which is ranked No. 3 in the country, according to, in offensive efficiency.

Duke led by as many as 29 points in the second half.

Duke senior guard Grayson Allen finished with 10 points and Duval added 11 points and seven assists.

"It was one of our best games," Krzyzewski said.

Duke last made it to the Sweet 16 in 2016. It will play the winner of No. 3 seeded Michigan State and No. 11 seeded Syracuse.

Alexander, 919-829-4822; @jonmalexander