ACC Basketball: Duke 99, UNC-Asheville 56
DURHAM ó Mike Krzyzewski was, in fact, sending a message to his Duke players by rearranging his lineup. Only it wasn’t meant for the regulars who sat ó but for the backups who wound up starting.
Turns out those benched Blue Devils got something out of it, too.
Especially Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler, who both scored 14 points in No. 6 Duke’s 99-56 rout of North Carolina-Asheville on Wednesday night.
Jon Scheyer added 13 points for the Blue Devils (9-1), who juggled their starting five after an upset 11 days earlier at Michigan. Krzyzewski sat his regular lineup in favor of five players who had combined to make one start this season.
“There’s never a thing you do where a message is not intended,” Krzyzewski said. “The message is that we have confidence in our bench. Is the glass, so-called, half-full or half-empty? What would be the reason to do that doesn’t mean that something wrong happened. It’s to show confidence in the kids that we need.”
Ultimately, it didn’t matter who Duke had on the court against an outmanned UNC Asheville team. The Blue Devils shot 52 percent, took control with an early 27-8 run and coasted to their 65th consecutive nonconference victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium before turning their attention toward Saturday’s matchup with No. 7 Xavier in East Rutherford, N.J.
“A lot of guys got minutes, and that’s good for us, because it’s definitely a long season,” Singler said. “Everyone was playing well and everyone deserved the minutes that they played. That’s what counts.”
Duke pushed its lead into double figures for good during that big spurt midway through the first half, made it a 20-point game roughly 11/2 minutes after halftime and stretched it to 30 with 81/2 minutes left. By then, the only apparent shortcoming for the Blue Devils was that they wouldn’t match the 68-point beating that rival North Carolina gave the Bulldogs last month.
“Our team has a lot of improving to do, and we will for a while,” Krzyzewski said. “But that’s OK. It’s a long season. We’re not even close to being who I think we could become. That’s what I have to (do) ó to get our team to do that over the course of the season.”
Reid Augst, the only senior on UNC Asheville’s roster, scored 15 points and John Williams added 11.
The Bulldogs (4-6) copied Michigan’s 1-3-1 zone defense and spread-the-court offense, but they didn’t have enough bodies and went on to lose their sixth straight against Division I opponents while slipping to 0-50 all-time against Atlantic Coast Conference teams.
What the Wolverines did “was perfect in the way you have to play Duke,” UNC Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach said. But for his team, “it’s not a natural thing to do. So to go out there and try to do it takes away from the natural ability of our players. But I thought it was the only way we could stay in the ball game and give ourselves a chance to win.”
Brian Zoubek, Greg Paulus and Nolan Smith all scored 12 points for the Blue Devils, who spent nearly two weeks figuring out what went wrong at Michigan, then improved to 14-1 under Krzyzewski following a break of 10 or more days between games.
Coach K started Paulus, David McClure and Martynas Pocius plus freshmen Elliot Williams and Miles Plumlee, who started the season opener and was the only one of the five with starting experience this season.
“We’re going to need those kids, and if you constantly play them coming off the bench late ó maybe (starting) is a little boost,” Krzyzewski said. “There are a lot of reasons for doing it other than the superficial ones.”
Singler, Henderson and the other regulars watched the opening few minutes from the bench before they trickled into the game and started Duke’s overwhelming run.
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