DURHAM, N.C. – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski always seems to have a group of reserves who could start for most other teams. Lance Thomas became the latest member of that club to post some impressive numbers.
Thomas scored a career-high 21 points Friday to help the seventh-ranked Blue Devils rout Duquesne 95-72.
"I feel like (that performance) was a little long overdue," Thomas said. "On any given night, any of our guys can actually have a game like that. We have such a balanced team, such a deep team, that something like that can happen on any given night, and it says a lot about our team that we can do that."
Thomas might be the first big man off Duke's bench, but Krzyzewski described him as "another starter for our team." He had 12 of his points in the decisive first half and made all eight of his shots in helping the Blue Devils (7-0) shoot a season-high 54.7 percent.
Kyle Singler had 17 points, Nolan Smith added 11, and the only thing Thomas missed all day was a first-half free throw in surpassing his previous high of 15 set against Air Force in 2006. Duke — which hadn't shot better than 48.5 percent in any game so far — scored 31 points off 19 Duquesne turnovers.
"We like to run the fast break on a made basket. Unfortunately, there were a lot of makes on Duke's end today, so we got a lot of practice with it," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart quipped.
The Blue Devils never trailed, led by 10 midway through the first half, pushed it to 20 by the break and 30 shortly after halftime in cruising to their 64th straight non-conference win at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke has won its five home games by an average of 24 points.
"We got that huge lead (and) it was a result of Duke scoring, not a certain player scoring," Krzyzewski said. "That's when it's always the best, when you don't even know who scored. You just know that we scored."
The Blue Devils will have to wait a few weeks before they can go for No. 65. After a road trip through Big Ten country to face No. 10 Purdue and Michigan, they're off for final exams before hosting UNC Asheville on Dec. 17.
"You've got to be able to win somewhere away from Cameron," Smith said.
Damian Saunders finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Aaron Jackson — the Dukes' lone senior — had 14 points. Duquesne (4-1) was denied its first win over a ranked team since 1997.
The young Dukes entered with three freshmen and three sophomores in the eight-man rotation, and a perfect record that was perhaps deceptive — the previous four opponents were a combined 3-14. Duke wasted little time delivering a sobering reminder of just how far Duquesne still has to go.
"Towards the beginning, I think the pressure really got to them of playing Duke," Saunders said of his young teammates.
The Blue Devils effectively ended this one by halftime, taking control with a 23-6 run that pushed their lead into double figures to stay. They limited Duquesne to two field goals in roughly 9 minutes, and during one stretch came away with points on 10 of 11 trips downcourt — a big reason why Duke shot 60 percent in the first half.
Saunders had 10 of his points in the half, but was the only Duquesne player to score in the opening 10 minutes. The Dukes, who entered shooting nearly 38 percent from 3-point range, were just 3-for-21 from beyond the arc.
"I don't think there was a situation where we didn't give effort," Everhart said. "For the first time this year, we didn't shoot the ball well from 3, and we missed some pretty good looks, especially early in the game."