Robert Morris makes it close for a bit, but Duke pulls away late
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For a three-minute span during the second half of Friday’s NCAA second-round game, No. 16 Robert Morris had Duke fans worried.
Then No. 1 Duke, after a timeout, decided enough was enough.
Duke went on a 10-2 run and finally dashed the hopes of a No. 16 seed pulling off an upset.
Robert Morris allowed Duke too many easy looks, especially in the first half, and lost 85-56 at Time Warner Cable Arena. Duke wasn’t supposed to have a hard time with Robert Morris, and for the most part it didn’t.
It was Duke’s 100th win in the NCAA Tournament, and No. 1 seeds are 124-0 in the Tournament.
The Blue Devils, who lost their last two NCAA games in North Carolina, will play San Diego State in a third-round game Sunday.
The Colonials (20-15) rushed their shots early and didn’t take care of the ball, a no-no against the talented Blue Devils (30-4). They had to play well to have a chance and didn’t.
“Duke is a terrific team, and it made the night uncomfortable for us,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. “We would have liked to have a couple more shots fall. We missed four or five layups early. If those go, it might be a little bit of a different game.”
But the Colonials did make it interesting midway through the second half, using a 10-0 run to trim a 20-point deficit to 54-44 with 12:10 left.
Junior Rodney Pryor, who finished with a game-high 23 points, keyed the run with two 3-pointers. Marcquise Reed added 22 points.
“Robert Morris fought the entire game and put themselves in a position with double digits on the clock to maybe win the game,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
“Robert Morris can really score the ball, but the 3-pointer by JustiSe (Winslow) was huge.”
Duke responded by outscoring Robert Morris, 31-12, the rest of the way for the easy victory.
Winslow, a freshman, keyed the run with two baskets, including a 3-pointer. Senior guard Quinn Cook led Duke with 22, 16 in the first half.
“We’re competitors,” Pryor said. “Making the NCAA Tournament is a blessing. It’s everybody’s dream playing on this stage. We tried to enjoy the moment.”
Robert Morris led 7-5 early on a jumper by Pryor, a 3-pointer by Reed and a tip-in by Aaron Tate. Then Duke took over.
The Blue Devils were too strong and used a 25-4 run over the next seven minutes to grab a commanding 30-11 lead.
But it was the inconsistent play, which hampered the Colonials at times during the season, that hurt the team the most.
“The things that killed us were the transition layups, the turnover for an uncontested dunk and the missed layups,” Toole said. “Obviously you can’t take away everything from a team as talented as Duke.
“We got off to a good start early. The way they pressure is good for Rodney, Marcquise and Kavon (Stewart) to get in the lane to make plays. It was the defensive intensity that we didn’t have. When we made the run, the defensive side was much more active.”
Duke took advantage of its height inside against the undersized Colonials to build a 42-27 lead at halftime.
Freshman Jahlil Okafor, a 6-foot-11 center, scored nine points in the opening half, and 7-foot junior center Marshall Plumlee came off the bench to score six.
Okafor finished with 21, and Plumlee had 10 and 10 rebounds.
Near the end of the game, Toole replaced senior Lucky Jones, and the Robert Morris fans started chanting his name.
“That was a great moment for me,” Jones said. “I tried to leave everything I had on the floor. The Robert Morris fans are the greatest.”