CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Duke’s youngsters saw plenty in their first NCAA Tournament game: the buzz of a fast start to a big lead, the challenge of putting away an overmatched opponent that keeps playing hard, even an irate Hall of Fame coach.
Quinn Cook scored 22 points to help the No. 1-seeded Blue Devils get off to a torrid start and beat Robert Morris 85-56 on Friday.
Jahlil Okafor added 21 as the Blue Devils (30-4) wasted little time getting their offense revving, hitting their first seven shots and 12 of 15. Duke led by double figures from there, with the night mostly about learning how to play in March for a team with four freshmen among its eight scholarship players.
“We’ve played in some big-time games and earned a spot here in the NCAA Tournament,” said Cook, a senior. “I just told them to be themselves.”
That’s not to say everything went perfectly.
Okafor blew a reverse dunk in the second half, prompting coach Mike Krzyzewski to spring up and point to junior reserve Marshall Plumlee to replace his star freshman big man. He burned a timeout at the 14:53 mark, and then animatedly addressed his team from the edge of his chair in the huddle.
“I know them well enough: I feel like I can get emotional, funny, serious, and they’ll respond because of the relationships that have been built,” Krzyzewski said. “And it’s my responsibility to spontaneously act when I do have a feel, when I do see something and for them to react to me. And they’ve done that.”
Robert Morris — the No. 16 seed that had to win a First Four game to get here — showed plenty of fight and kept hanging around for the first part of the second half. The Colonials (20-15) twice pulled within 10, but the Blue Devils put the game out of reach with a suddenly dominant 12-0 burst — started by freshman Justise Winslow — that pushed the lead back to 68-46 on Amile Jefferson’s layup with 8:29 left.
“Coach is intense,” Jefferson said.