DURHAM, N.C. - Thursday's final preseason game was the perfect lesson for the Blue Devils as they prepare to open up the 2010-11 season in 10 days.
It was a tune-up game against Cal Poly Pomona, the defending Division II National Champions.
And like any tune up, you leave what is working the way it is, and you work on fixing the problem areas, because as head coach Mike Krzyzewski made clear during his post game press conference, "I've told you right from the start, we're going to be a developing team, we're not going to hold anybody scoreless, we are going to be down in games, we are going to look bad, and overall we're going to try to get better."
Get better is precisely what the Blue Devils did in the second half of Thursday's 81-60 win over the Broncos.
Leading by six at the start of the second half, Duke, led by senior Kyle Singler, ignited the Blue Devils second half run in which they increased their six point halftime lead to 31, reeling off 13 unanswered points during one stretch.
"You can forget about that Kyle is your best player," Krzyzewski said. "And so we just tried to position him in the second half where you are looking for him. And then he asserted himself too. It's all part of growth. We're a very good basketball team that can get better."
Singler scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half as five Blue Devils finished in double figures on the night in which Duke was slow out of the gates.
"They're champions," senior Nolan Smith said. "They're D-2 champions just like we were D-1 champions last year. Obviously, they are going to have pride just like Duke has pride. They came in here with tons of it. They showed it the whole game and they knocked us back in the first half with the shots they were making."
Smith finished with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and also agreed with his coach that tonight was a good learning experience for a team with only three upperclassmen.
"We're a very young team," Krzyzewski said. "We have to go through a process of becoming better. So this game will help us to become better."
"We definitely came into the game just thinking this was another exhibition game," Smith said. "Obviously, coaches had prepared us like they always do knowing that they are a championship level team. We were a young team in the beginning of the game as a whole. It was a good lesson for us tonight to see that now we have to be prepared to play every single game."
"Hopefully it is a good lesson for everybody in this locker room."
The coaches didn't make any drastic changes during halftime to the game plan. The message was simple, the objective clear.
"Just play hard, that was the main thing," Smith said. "Our effort and our energy was the only thing we changed."
And increased effort and energy is what Duke displayed, especially on the defensive end.
"Scoring is not a problem, the great thing about our defense is if we decide to play defense it can lead to a lot of open floor looks," sophomore Mason Plumlee, who finished with 11 points, said.
Better defense and rebound led to more points in the paint and on the break for the Blue Devils in the second half.
During the first half, Duke tallied just six fast break points and tied the Broncos with 26 points in the paint.
The second half was a different story as Duke outpaced Cal Poly Pomona 26-6 in points in the paint and 10-2 in fast break points.
"We can get out and run, which our team is very capable of [because] we have got a lot of good guards and bigs that can run," Mason said. "It feeds right into our offense if we can get stops and get rebounds, get steals and get blocks because it's great for our offense."