DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – Duke’s shooting cooled as the game wore on while its defense had trouble consistently slowing down Gardner-Webb’s hot shooting.
Then again, Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski said, it was an OK performance for a team coming off such a long break.
Freshman Jabari Parker scored 21 points to help No. 8 Duke beat Gardner-Webb 85-66 on Monday night in its first game in nearly two weeks.
Andre Dawkins added a season-high 18 points for the Blue Devils (8-2), who hadn’t played since beating Michigan on Dec. 3 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
That break, which included final exams, came after a tough stretch of four games in 10 days that included a loss to top-ranked Arizona in the NIT Season Tip-Off championship and a one-point home win over Vermont just before Thanksgiving.
“You don’t stop playing for two weeks and not have some slippage,” Krzyzewski said. “But overall I was pleased with our team.”
Duke won’t have to wait nearly as long to get back on the court. The Blue Devils face UCLA on Thursday in New York in their last game before the Christmas holiday.
Duke had its good and bad moments in this one, though it led by a comfortable margin all game. The offense roared to a fast start with accurate shooting and unselfish basketball, though things slowed down after halftime.
The defense didn’t do much to slow the Runnin’ Bulldogs (6-6) in the first half, but Krzyzewski said the Blue Devils played better on that end in the second half.
Duke led by 14 points at halftime and by 23 in the second half on the way to earning its 108th straight home nonconference victory.
Parker said the Blue Devils had a “a little bit of a setback” when it came to talking to each other on the defensive end.
“For the Michigan game we were really awake and aware of their players,” Parker said. “But this game we kind of let them go to their tendencies and we saw it played out well for them.”
Quinn Cook, who had 16 points and nine assists for Duke, noticed something else as the Blue Devils couldn’t miss on the offensive end through the first 14½ minutes.
“I think when we get it going offensively like that, we kind of get lazy on defense,” Cook said. “We had it going early so we got lazy. But at some point, we’ve got to just get it out of our system.”
Duke made 17 of its first 23 shots (74 percent) with 14 assists on those baskets before finishing the half at nearly 59 percent. The Blue Devils shot just 8 for 22 (36 percent) after halftime and finished the game at 50 percent, though they hit nine 3-pointers and converted 15 offensive rebounds into 13 second-chance points.
Jerome Hill scored a career-high 22 points on 9-for-10 shooting to go with nine rebounds to lead Gardner-Webb, which shot nearly 63 percent in the opening half before finishing at 54 percent for the game.
“We played pretty good offensively the entire first half,” Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft said. “Unfortunately we couldn’t get any stops on the other end.”
Parker finished 7 of 12 from the field with six rebounds in 26 minutes.
Dawkins, a fifth-year senior guard who sat out last season while he dealt with his sister’s death during his freshman year, finished 6 of 10 from the field, including 4-for-8 shooting from 3-point range.
He knocked down his first four shots to help Duke to its fast start, which included a 7-0 burst in the span of a minute. Tyler Thornton knocked down a 3 off an inbounds pass and Parker following with a jumper in the lane and a dunk on an alley-oop feed from Cook to make it 46-25 with 5½ minutes left in the first half.
The only problem for Duke? Gardner-Webb didn’t miss much, either.
Gardner-Webb got as close as 56-44 on Hill’s layup with 17:07 left, but Rodney Hood (15 points) answered with a three-point play to turn away what amounted to Gardner-Webb’s closest push.
Dawkins followed with a 3 a minute later for a 62-46 lead, and Duke led by at least 16 the rest of the night. The Blue Devils took their largest lead at 74-51 on Parker’s free throws with 10:42 left.