NCAA Tournament: Duke 86, Binghamton 62
By Bret Strelow
GREENSBORO ó More boos than cheers greeted Duke as it took the Greensboro Coliseum floor late Thursday night.
Always polarizing, the Blue Devils showed they’re once again capable of punishing postseason competition.
Jon Scheyer led six double-figure scorers with 15 points as second-seeded Duke pulled away for an 86-62 win in an NCAA tournament opener against 15th-seeded Binghamton.
The Blue Devils, who had dropped three of their last four NCAA contests, opened the second half with a 17-2 run that established a 26-point spread.
“It was important to come out with a strong win,” Duke junior Gerald Henderson said. “That’s how you want to jumpstart things. We want this to be a time we play our best basketball.
“We wanted to kind of show ourselves, not just other people, that we’re not playing around. We’re in this to win it, not just to go far or go farther than we’ve gone the last two years. That’s not how we want to approach this.”
Lance Thomas went 5-for-5 from the field and scored 14 points for the Blue Devils, who enjoyed their biggest first-round win since 2004. Henderson and Nolan Smith had 13 points apiece, Elliot Williams contributed 11 and Kyle Singler added 10.
Duke (29-6) will be attempting to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006 when it faces seventh-seeded Texas (23-11) on Saturday at approximately 8:15 p.m.
A loss to LSU ended the careers of J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams three years ago, and tournament success has eluded the majority of players on Duke’s current roster.
Scheyer and Henderson were freshmen when the Blue Devils lost a first-round game to Virginia Commonwealth, and they edged Belmont before falling to West Virginia last season.
With lingering North Carolina fans giving support to a small but vocal section of Binghamton backers, Duke jumped out to a 27-12 lead.
“A win is a win in this thing,” Thomas said. “The more you win, the more confident your team gets. There’s no time to sit back and worry about having a chance of losing. We have to play as confident as possible and do everything in our power to win.”
The Bearcats (23-9) committed six fouls and drew none in the first four minutes, and a 3-pointer from Singler gave the Blue Devils a 19-7 advantage.
Duke led 24-12 when Binghamton’s Malik Alvin was called for a charge, and Smith made a layup at the other end. Bearcats coach Kevin Broadus, upset that no charge was called on Smith, picked up a technical foul. A free throw from Smith increased Binghamton’s deficit to 15 points midway through the half.
The Bearcats drew within 37-31 on a 3-pointer by Brandon Herbert with 3:28 left, but Duke took an 11-point lead into the break.
Scheyer started and ended the decisive second-half run with 3-pointers that helped push the Blue Devils in front 62-36.
“Some different guys made some really good decisions on defense,” Henderson said. “When our defense is going good, we have a lot of momentum going into our offense.”
A spark from Thomas enabled Duke to gain separation.
He had his sixth double-figure outing of the season, which includes a 21-point performance against Duquesne in late November.
He had scored fewer than 10 points in 25 of the Blue Devils’ last 27 games.
“The key guy for us was Lance,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I thought Lance played one of his best games.”