Duke 113, Gardner-Webb 68
By Joedy McCreary
DURHAM ó Everything that left Jon Scheyer’s hand went where it was supposed to go: Straight to his teammates and, especially, through the rim.
Scheyer had career highs of 36 points and nine assists to lead No. 7 Duke past Gardner-Webb 113-68 on Tuesday night.
He was 11 of 13 from the field, had 24 points by halftime and finished with a personal-best seven 3-pointers to lead the Blue Devils (8-1). And as his stat line inched closer to a triple-double, his teammates joked that he earned a taste of the silent treatment.
“You don’t talk about it,” forward Mason Plumlee said with a smile. “If he’s not missing, don’t mess with him.”
Auryn MacMillan scored 14 points and C.J. Hailey added 11 to lead Gardner-Webb (3-5). The Runnin’ Bulldogs turned it over 23 times and went more than 6 minutes without putting the ball through the rim in losing their fifth straight.
Freshman Andre Dawkins scored 16 emotional points while playing for the first time since his sister was killed in a car accident 11/2 weeks earlier while driving to see Duke’s game against St. John’s.
Miles Plumlee and Brian Zoubek had 13 points apiece, while Nolan Smith added 11 and Kyle Singler, playing through a sprained right ankle, also finished with 11 ó all in the second half.
But the Blue Devils ultimately didn’t need too much from their injured star in extending several long streaks at Cameron Indoor Stadium: they won their 74th straight nonconference game there, their 34th in a row at home against unranked teams and their 47th consecutive December home game.
“You never know when lightning will strike twice,” Gardner-Webb coach Rick Scruggs said, lightheartedly referring to his program-defining win two years ago at Kentucky. “Since it was a blue-and-white team and it was on television again, we were hoping tonight was the night, but it didn’t turn out that way.”
Duke was coming off a 10-day break between games for final exams and, with the university on break, had the unusual sight of a few scattered empty seats at the perpetually packed arena.
But Scheyer and the Blue Devils clearly were on top of their game and didn’t get caught looking ahead to Saturday’s game against No. 15 Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden. Duke had a season-high 27 assists on its 43 field goals.
“When you’re passing the ball like that, even as many points as (Scheyer is) scoring, it still feels like, ‘We’re scoring,’ and not, ‘He’s scoring,”‘ coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Duke never trailed, broke the game open with a huge early run and shot 65.2 percent ó 60.7 percent in the first half, when this one was decided.
“The last 10 days, since we haven’t had a game, it’s given us a lot of time just to work on our individual games, some shooting, get in better shape,” Scheyer said.
The first meeting between the schools had all the makings of a mismatch. The teams had only one common opponent ó Charlotte ó with Duke routing the 49ers by 42 points roughly a month before they beat Gardner-Webb by 29.
Thanks to Scheyer’s highlight-reel night, it was.
He hit his first seven shots, didn’t miss anything until he rimmed out a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the half, and by halftime he nearly matched his previous career high of 30 set last season against Wake Forest.
But his contributions certainly weren’t limited to scoring. The senior point guard added eight rebounds, and among his assists were a pretty behind-the-head feed on a fast break that led to a dunk by Mason Plumlee and, later, a behind-the-back pass to set up Singler for a three-point play.
“Playing with Jon, you know that he sees everybody on the floor,” Mason Plumlee said. “So you’ve just always got to be ready. Just playing with him so long, that’s something you know: Be ready when he has the ball, because he’ll find you.”
Duke all but ended this one by outscoring Gardner-Webb 30-10 during an 11-minute stretch of the opening half, a punishing run that started on one of Scheyer’s 3s and ended when Smith’s free throw with 2:06 before halftime made it 47-26.
Included in that burst was a stretch in which the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ only points came when Miles Plumlee was called for goaltending.