DURHAM, N.C. – Duke wasn't anywhere near its best in the season opener. What the eighth-ranked Blue Devils did have was Mason Plumlee, and that was enough to beat Georgia State.
Yet - despite the Panthers' coach's strong opinions - the Blue Devils know they'll need to do much more to win their upcoming battle of bluebloods.
Plumlee had 19 points and 14 rebounds to lead Duke to a 74-55 win over Georgia State on Friday night.
"It was OK. It wasn't an efficient game - a lot of turnovers, some things I should have finished," Plumlee said. "But it's the first game of the season. We aren't supposed to be peaking right now. I'll be alright, and I'll be better the next game."
Seth Curry added 15 points and surprise starter Tyler Thornton had 13 for the Blue Devils, who shot 51 percent and hit 11 3-pointers while holding the Panthers to 37 percent shooting.
They kept Georgia State without a field goal for 5 minutes during the run early in the second half that propelled them to their 31st straight home-opening victory.
Next up for Duke: A showdown with third-ranked defending national champion Kentucky in Atlanta on Tuesday night.
"I can't wait to tell (Wildcats coach John) Calipari I don't think they can win this one," Georgia State coach Ron Hunter said. "I said that. Tell `Cal' they can't win this game. Duke will beat Calipari and will beat Kentucky."
Devonta White had 19 points while freshman R.J. Hunter - the son of the Panthers coach - had 14 points and 10 rebounds in his first college game.
"As a dad, he gets his allowance," Hunter quipped. "As a coach, he has to keep working."
Georgia State never got closer than 12 points in the second half and turned it over 16 times while being denied their first victory over an Atlantic Coast Conference team besides Georgia Tech.
But the Panthers and their constantly changing defense threatened to make things interesting shortly after halftime, pulling to 40-28 on Manny Atkins' three-point play with 17:46 left.
Thornton followed with a 3-pointer about 20 seconds later, before adding a steal and layup to stretch the lead to 45-28. Curry capped the run with a 3 from the left wing that made it 52-30 and pushed the lead into the 20s.
The Blue Devils, who had 15 turnovers, gave themselves just enough of a cushion for their 95th straight nonconference victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium, their 13th season-opening victory in a row and their 28th consecutive win against current Colonial Athletic Association members.
Thornton wasn't even expected to be in the starting lineup, but coach Mike Krzyzewski said he started him ahead of Quinn Cook because Thornton could better match up with Hunter.
Redshirt freshman forward Alex Murphy, who had been penciled into the role filled through the years by Kyle Singler but didn't leave the bench because "we didn't get to where Alex would play," Krzyzewski said, adding that Murphy was not injured.
Only eight players saw the court for Duke - and only seven played at least 10 minutes. For much of the way, none was more important than Plumlee.
The 6-foot-10 senior nearly had his 19th career double-double by halftime, racking up 10 points and eight rebounds at the end of an opening half in which the Blue Devils trailed for less than a minute early but struggled to generate much separation.
Plumlee blocked two 3-point attempts by Hunter during the 13-2 spurt late in the half that put Duke up by 13.
"When a guy's averaging 26 (points) coming into a game, you figure he's going to pull them with a guy in his face," Plumlee said of Hunter. "So I think he wasn't used to having length on him. I mean, normally - I don't want to say smarter, because he's not a dumb player - they'll drive (past) a big guy. But he was determined to shoot it."
Plumlee's steal and layup with just under 3 minutes before the break pushed the lead into double figures for the first time at 28-17.
BDN+ Access users
returning customers, please login here.