DURHAM, N.C. – Duke looks ready to start Atlantic Coast Conference play.
Nolan Smith scored 23 points to help the seventh-ranked Blue Devils beat Pennsylvania 114-55 on Thursday night in their final tune-up before opening the league schedule here against Clemson this weekend.
Kyle Singler added 20 points for the Blue Devils (11-1), who took control of the game early en route to their fifth straight victory. Duke led by double figures in the first 5 minutes, then ran off a 23-3 run that blew the game open and turned the rest of the contest into a formality.
The Blue Devils shot 60 percent, hit 10 of 21 3-pointers and finished with a season-high scoring output to extend the Quakers' miserable start. By the time it was over, Duke scored the most points ever allowed by Penn (0-9) while handing the Quakers their most lopsided loss in program history.
"I'm not saying we're this perfect machine, but we're anxious to start," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "And the nine kids we have that are going to play are healthy enough to play. We have bruises and knees and all that kind of stuff, but when you have nine guys that can play and they have great attitudes and they're hungry to play, then it's time to get going."
Duke came into the season as ACC co-favorites with defending national champion North Carolina. The Blue Devils have done nothing so far to prove those predictions wrong, getting strong play from Smith, Singler and Jon Scheyer on the perimeter while showing more depth inside than in previous years.
On Thursday night, the perimeter was as good as always, while 6-foot-10 freshman Mason Plumlee — who missed the first six games with a broken left wrist — finished with a season-high 18 points off the bench.
"(The coaches) have been telling me to play harder ever since I've been here," Plumlee said. "I just try to take that on offense and on defense and apply it to the game."
Older brother Miles Plumlee (nine points, 10 rebounds) and 7-1 senior Brian Zoubek (eight points, six rebounds) also performed well, making Duke an impossible matchup for a Penn team that didn't have a starter taller than 6-8.
"For a minute there," Penn interim coach Jerome Allen said, "I thought we were walking in the forest."
Jack Eggleston scored 13 points to lead Penn, which has lost both games since Glen Miller was fired and Allen took over. The game got away as the Quakers went 8½ minutes without a field goal — with several shots going halfway down before rattling out or rolling all the way around the cylinder before dropping harmlessly off the rim — while the Blue Devils had no such offensive troubles.
While Duke had the clear edge in talent, it was the way the Blue Devils handled the game that stood out most. While the rival Tar Heels have struggled down the road with intensity against overmatched opponents this season, the Blue Devils looked determined to increase their lead all night.
Smith buried a jumper from the left corner to make it 16-6 early in the Quakers' drought. A few minutes later, Miles Plumlee's dunk started a run of 11 straight scoring possessions for the Blue Devils, who got 3s from Scheyer and Andre Dawkins before Zoubek's inside score pushed the lead to 40-11 with 8:30 left before halftime.
"That starts from (Krzyzewski) and always talking about having a killer instinct," said Scheyer, who had 19 points and a career-best 11 assists. "No matter what game we're playing, we don't want to take one possession off."
Penn played the Blue Devils even the rest of the half and trailed 58-29 at the break, though Allen — frustrated by several borderline calls that went against the Quakers — picked up a technical foul for arguing with officials. Things were no better in the second half, with Duke cracking the 100-point mark on Mason Plumlee's free throw with 5:42 to play.
The game drew Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington, whose son, Malcolm, is a freshman walk-on for the Quakers. Washington kept a low profile in college basketball's notoriously hostile arena, wearing a dark blue Penn hat and sitting a couple of rows behind the scorer's table near the Penn bench.
He did, however, acknowledge the Cameron Crazies by tipping his hat after they started chanting his name during a second-half timeout with the Blue Devils leading by 40 points.