Kyle Singler — until Duke's blowout became a close game again.DURHAM, N.C. – Hardly anything fell for
Singler scored 10 of his 17 points in the second half, and the sixth-ranked Blue Devils bounced back from their first loss by beating St. John's 80-71 on Saturday.
Nolan Smith added 16 points, Jon Scheyer added 15 on 4-of-14 shooting and Duke (7-1) had enough big bodies to clean up those misses, outrebounding the Red Storm 41-31. That helped the Blue Devils score 17 straight points in the first half, then produce another big run in the second and claim their NCAA-record 73rd straight nonconference victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"We're going to miss shots, but we don't really want to focus too much on that, just because we know we've got guys that can rebound the ball," Singler said. "One of the reasons why we had such a big lead in the first half was, our bigs did such a great job rebounding our misses and getting them back in the basket."
D.J. Kennedy scored 18 points — all in the second half — to lead the Red Storm (6-1). The last non-ACC team to beat the Blue Devils there made things interesting late, reeling off 10 straight points to cut Duke's lead to 54-50 on Dwight Hardy's layup with about 10 minutes left.
But Lance Thomas hit a jumper, Jon Scheyer hit two free throws and Singler — who was 3-for-15 shooting at that point — hit a 3-pointer during the late 14-2 run that put them back in control.
"That's like the guy who strikes out three times and pops up. In the bottom of the eighth, (with runners on) second and third, he gets a double," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We have a lot of developing to do as a basketball team, but I like the fact that we step up in tough situations."
Indeed, Singler got hot just in time — scoring seven points during that spurt to lead Duke in scoring for the fourth time in eight games. Three days earlier, he had a career-high 28 in a 73-69 loss to Wisconsin, the Blue Devils' first in 11 Big Ten-ACC Challenge games. They responded by winning their seventh straight in their series with St. John's.
Sean Evans had a season-high 17 points while Kennedy led the Red Storm in scoring for the sixth time this season. St. John's, playing its first game of the year against a power-conference team, shot 50.9 percent but lost its 26th straight on a Top 25 team's home floor.
"We didn't get outplayed," coach Norm Roberts said. "If we play that hard, and we just focus in and make some baskets, we've got a chance."
Plenty of the Blue Devils' streaks also remained alive. They claimed their 33rd straight home victory against unranked opponents while winning their 46th consecutive home game in December, a string that dates back to 1996.
For the first time, Duke had the starting lineup Krzyzewski had planned in the preseason with 6-foot-10 freshman Mason Plumlee making his first start after missing the first six games with a broken wrist. He made his debut in the Wisconsin game.
But a pair of veterans — Thomas and Zoubek — came off the bench and wound up making a big difference in this one, scoring 11 points apiece and combining for 15 rebounds.
"The story was Lance and Brian," Krzyzewski said. "They've been in the fight before."
The 7-1 Zoubek had his second double-figure performance of the season while Thomas turned in a pair of impressive individual efforts early, knocking down a big baseline jumper seconds before drawing a charge to spark the Cameron crowd.
"We've definitely started to count on our bigs more, and they're ready to play," Smith said. "Whether it's a penetrate and kick, or an inside-out, it will just make our offense a lot easier."
Duke took the lead for good by outscoring St. John's 31-9 during a 10½-minute stretch of the first, with Thomas' three-point play at the 12½-minute mark putting the Blue Devils ahead to stay.
Smith gave Duke its first double-figure lead with the second of his 3s on consecutive trips downcourt with 9 minutes left, and 90 seconds later, Singler ended the run by following a missed 3 with a layup that made it 31-15.
"We knew they would make big shots," Roberts said. "Scheyer and Singler made some big shots, and then Nolan got going and made some plays for them. You're playing against good players, and that's going to happen."
St. John's lost one of its starters on the first shot of the game. Team officials said Justin Burrell sprained his right ankle when he landed on a Duke player's foot after his short jumper gave the Red Storm a 2-0 lead roughly 25 seconds in.