76 - 77 Final
  for this game

Duke escapes upset bid from Belmont

Nov 12, 2011 - 5:43 AM Durham, NC (Sports Network) - The first time Duke played Belmont, the Blue Devils were nearly shocked by the Bruins in the opening round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament in a one-point decision. On Friday night, Belmont challenged the No. 6 team in the nation yet again, but like before, Mike Krzyzewski's squad gutted out another tight victory.

Andre Dawkins hit a big three-pointer in the final minute, lifting Duke to a 77-76 triumph, the 901st in the career of Krzyzewski. That places him one victory shy of matching Bob Knight as the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history.

"We grew up a lot tonight. You can't practice situations like that," Krzyzewski said.

Mason Plumlee had 13 points, 14 rebounds and six assists for the Blue Devils (1-0), who nearly wasted a 16-point lead in the second half, but held on for their 87th straight non-conference home win, the longest current streak in the NCAA.

Belmont (0-1) suffered a 71-70 loss in the only other meeting between these teams, but the Bruins seemed prime to pull off the shocker after Ian Clark somehow got the ball to go through the hoop with 52 seconds left. He lost the ball while being fouled, but it caromed off the backboard and he canned the free throw for a 72-71 margin.

Duke called a timeout with 27.8 seconds left. Then, with the shot clock about to expire, Dawkins launched a successful long three from the top of the arc with 16.7 seconds left.

"They wear you down," Krzyzewski said of Belmont. "I thought our perimeter got a little bit tired based on their pressure. Our offense let us down, then at the end we had three kids make big plays."

Kerron Johnson's layup had Belmont within two with 9.5 seconds showing, but Ryan Kelly sank two big free throws with 7.1 ticks remaining. Clark made a three as time expired in the game, which was part of the Maui Invitational.

As always, the atmosphere should be electric again at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday when the Blue Devils take on Presbyterian. That's when Coach K can match Knight's mark of 902 victories. Although nothing can be taken for granted, assuming the Blue Devils win, Krzyzewski could pass Knight on Tuesday against Michigan State at Madison Square Garden.

The Blue Devils led the ACC in scoring last season, but most of that production was lost with the departures of Kyrie Irving (top pick in the NBA Draft), Nolan Smith (ACC Player of the Year) and Kyle Singler. They needed 16 points from both Austin Rivers and Seth Curry, along with 12 from Kelly and 10 from Tyler Thornton.

Johnson scored 15 to go with six assists for the Bruins, who forced Duke into 19 turnovers. Clark totaled 13 points, one more than both Drew Hanlen and J.J. Mann. Mick Hedgepath scored 11.

The Blue Devils own the longest active home winning streak in the NCAA at 37 games, but the reigning Atlantic Sun Conference regular season and tournament champions nearly ended that run.

Belmont stayed close Friday night for the first half, but the Blue Devils pulled away late for a 39-30 lead. Curry hit a three in the closing minute of the stanza and Thornton's long-distance shot widened the gap to 53-37 with 14:19 remaining.

As quick as Belmont seemed out of the game, the Bruins quickly rallied thanks to missed shots and turnovers by Duke. Two foul shots from Hedgepath made it 59-57 with 7:11 left, and a three by Hanlen, after a missed free throw from Thornton trimmed the margin to 61-60.

A jam by Rivers widened the gap to 68-60 with 3:58 left, but Belmont again made it tight.

"I felt that Duke totally took us out of our offense on the first half," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "We played them in '08 and were able to move the ball quickly and make it tough for them to switch by mixing up our cuts and slips and back cuts and we were able to get the ball moving and I sort of stubbornly stuck with that most of the first half hoping they would get a little tired or tired of doing it or something. We would start completing passes where we could do something with it but they were so aggressive on us."

Game Notes

This is the final year for Belmont in the Atlantic Sun. The Bruins will join the Ohio Valley Conference for competition in 2012-13...The Blue Devils are 13-0 all-time in Maui Invitational games...Krzyzewski's first win at Duke was against current Atlantic Sun school Stetson on November 29, 1980.