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Second-half surge leads Duke past Georgia Southern

Nov 14, 2006 - 2:19 AM DURHAM, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Georgia Southern found out it couldn't let up for a minute against Duke.

Josh McRoberts and DeMarcus Nelson scored 16 points apiece as the 10th-ranked Blue Devils pulled away in the second half to post a 72-48 victory over Georgia Southern in the second round of the BCE Classic.

Trailing by as many as six points in the opening half, Duke used a mini-spurt in the last minute to take the lead for good and then carried the momentum into the second half.

A buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Nelson gave the Blue Devils a 38-32 halftime lead, capping a seven-point run in the final 40 seconds.

"We didn't play very well in the first half," McRoberts said. "We played the last four minutes before coming into the locker room, but in the first half, they came out really hard, and we didn't match the intensity starting off the game. I was frustrated.

"We were just playing really poorly, and that's frustrating for everybody, but as a team we were playing bad. We didn't come out how we should have."

Duke (2-0) looked like a different team in the second half, ratcheting up its defense and using its transition game to spark an early 9-0 surge - highlighted by back-to-back dunks from Lance Thomas - that pushed the lead to 53-38 with 15:13 to play.

Georgia Southern (1-1), which routed UC Davis, 116-73, on Sunday night, just unraveled from there, scoring just four points in over 12 minutes and managing a mere 16 in the second half.

"Defense is the easiest way to get in games offensively, and early on when our offense wasn't really clicking like normal, our defense really kept us in there," Nelson said. "Especially in the second half, our defense really cranked it up. I think we held them to 16 points in the second half? That's phenomenal."

Dwayne Foreman scored 18 points to lead the Eagles, who shot 31 percent (19-of-61). Georgia Southern seemed to wear down after a strong first half in which it led by as many as six points.

"I thought we played hard for the most part. I'm very disappointed in the margin more than anything," Eagles coach Jeff Price said. "I don't think the final score is indicative of the game. This is a place where you have to have tremendous poise, and I thought for a spell there in the second half we lost our poise and got mentally weak; and I thought it really affected the game and allowed them to go on a run."

With Duke leading, 44-38, Thomas dunked twice and freshman Jon Scheyer buried a 3-pointer to push the lead to 51-38.

After the teams traded baskets, freshman Gerald Henderson hit a free throw and a dunk and McRoberts hit a jumper to extend the lead to 58-40 with 9:25 left.

Henderson and Scheyer added 13 and 11 points, respectively, for the Blue Devils, who shot 50 percent (24-of-48).

"Coming off the bench, you want to get in there and contribute as much as you can and play as hard as you can," Henderson said. "I felt like I did that today. We came out kind of slow, and I think the guys that came in off the bench gave the starters a boost."

Duke will join three other regional winners in the BCE Classic semifinals and finals in Kansas City, Missouri, on November 20-21.