DURHAM, N.C. - Kyrie Irving has set the new standard for a freshman making their first career start at point guard for the Blue Devils.
"For my first collegiate game, it was a great experience, especially to experience it with these guys on this team," Irving said.
The last freshman to start at point guard for the Blue Devils to open up a season was Jason Williams in 1999. Williams played 36 minutes scoring 13 points on 3-of-15 shooting to go along with three assists and six turnovers in an 80-79 loss to Stanford.
Before that, Bobby Hurley started in his first collegiate game in 1989 recording four points, two assists and one turnover in 18 minutes. He was also the last freshman point guard to start and win as Duke knocked off Harvard, 130-54.
In 2005, Greg Paulus stared the second game of the season, scoring 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting including a pair of three's, while registering four assists and four turnovers in 26 minutes.
Steve Wojciechowski waited until the third game of the year, back in 1994, to start at point for the Blue Devils. He connected on three 3's for nine points while handing out three assists and seven turnovers in 30 minutes.
Irving, a true freshman, made his regular season debut for the Blue Devils Sunday evening, starting at point and following in a long line of great Duke floor generals.
"He played a terrific game," Nolan Smith said. "You wouldn't know he's a freshman. He played like a veteran. He communicates with us like he's a veteran. You just expect him to only get better."
In 25 minutes, the West Orange, N.J. native, flashed his ability to both score and create for his teammates, while also showing some defensive prowess in the Blue Devils 97-60 win over Princeton from Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"I thought he played really well, especially with the assists and turnovers, nine and one, but I thought his defense, he had the kid [Douglas] Davis and [Dan] Mavraides, their two leading scorers, I thought he did a good job of not giving them open looks," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I thought he did a really good job."
Irving scored 17 points on 4-of-10 (.400) shooting, including 3-of-6 (.500) from three and a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line, while dishing out a team high nine of Duke's 26 assists and committing just a single turnover.
His nine assists set a school record by a freshman in the season opener and tied for the fourth highest total by any Duke player in a season opener.
"My anxiety level was at an all-time high," Irving said. "I was really excited, as any freshman would be. But once the game got going and I hit my free throw and hit a three in the corner, it felt good, and I felt like I was into the game."
Irving got off to a slow start shooting wise, connecting on just one of his seven first half field goal attempts, but in that same half he managed to hand out six assists. He found his rhythm in the second half, connecting on all three of his field goal attempts, two of which were three's, and registering three more assists.
"My shot was in rhythm in the first half I felt, but they just didn't fall," Irving said. "In the second half I had a little more open looks, and I knocked them down."
For Irving, the play of seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith helped make things easier on the court for the freshman guard. Singler finished with 16 points on 7-of-10 (.700) shooting with Smith leading the team with 22 points on 10-of-15 (.667) shooting to go along with six assists.
"They're the primary leaders but I am the point guard on the team, so I do have to orchestrate," Irving said. "Kyle and Nolan were hitting shots."
"Well I hope they believe that because those two kids do play hard every possession," Krzyzewski said. "That's the best way to lead. You show up and you're tough. Like Kyle [Singler] today got in foul trouble because he was making up for some mistakes that his teammates made."
In the end, Duke outscored the Tigers 55-32 in the second half shooting 20-of-30 (.667) from the floor and 8-of-11 (.727) from three.
"We were just together tonight," Irving said. "I really felt it. I think our bench played extremely well also. A lot of people stepped up and I think that's what's going to separate us from a lot of teams in the country - just our togetherness. We instill brotherhood here. This team is really special."