No. 1 Duke hammers Saint Francis

DURHAM, N.C. — The night started off badly and kept getting worse and worse for Saint Francis, playing the No. 1 team in the country in one of college basketball’s most difficult venues.

Duke jumped out to a 13-1 lead that swelled to 22-5 and 39-9 just 10 minutes into the game. The Blue Devils went on to destroy the cold-shooting and star-struck Red Flash, 124-67, at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Tuesday night.

Saint Francis (3-5) was a 26-point underdog coming in, but that point spread was covered in only nine minutes by an immensely talented Duke team that starts four freshmen along with senior Grayson Allen.

Duke (11-0) led 71-34 at the half, falling just one shy of the most points scored in program history in the first half of a game.

Freshman big man Marvin Bagley III, the likely No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA draft, and the rest of the Blue Devils dominated with their size all night, winning the rebounding battle, 61-25, and pulling down 17 offensive boards.

Despite the blowout loss, Saint Francis coach Rob Krimmel was appreciative of the opportunity to play the nation’s top-ranked team on national TV (ESPNU).

“Thanks to coach (Mike) Krzyzewski and the Duke program for allowing us to play in what I consider the Mecca of college basketball,” Krimmel said afterward. “It was something these kids will remember for the rest of their lives.”

SFU guard Scott Meredith, who grew up 100 miles from Duke in Pilot Mountain, N.C., echoed his coach’s sentiments about playing the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor.

“It was awesome to play on the same court I grew up idolizing and watching as a kid,” said Meredith, who had eight points with a couple of 3-pointers off the bench. “To play in front of the Cameron Crazies is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

The Red Flash players appeared to be in awe of their surroundings in the game’s opening minutes, missing shot after shot. Duke, on the other hand, didn’t miss much of anything, hitting 9-of-10 to start the game for the 22-5 lead.

The Blue Devils’ size proved to be way too much for Saint Francis, and they also shot lights out, hitting 60 percent from the field overall and 15-of-26 from 3-point territory.

The Flash shot 33.8 percent and were just 7-of-30 from 3.

“Their size and length comes at you in waves, and when they make shots like they did tonight, they are really, really hard to defend,” Krimmel said. “Hopefully this experience helps us when we get into conference play.”

Down 37 at the half, Krimmel said on the TV broadcast that he wanted to see his players compete hard for the first four minutes of the second half. The Flash did that, scoring six straight points during one stretch to get the deficit to 73-40.

But Duke answered by scoring the next six points, starting a 13-3 run that ended with the Blue Devils doubling up the Flash at 86-43. Krzyzewski pulled his starters with about seven minutes left and the score at 100-54.

Keith Braxton, Andre Wolford and Jamaal King each had 13 points to lead the Flash, while Deivydas Kuzavas had nine.

Bagley led Duke with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Marques Bolden had 17 points off the bench, while Wendell Carter Jr. had 15 points. Allen and Gary Trent Jr. had 14 apiece.

The game marked just the second time in SFU history it played the No. 1 team in the country. The other was a 78-58 loss to Notre Dame in 1974.

The TV announcers, Anish Shroff and former North Carolina standout Jason Capel, praised Saint Francis throughout the broadcast, despite the lopsided score. The broadcasters were well-versed in the Flash’s history and the talent level on the current team, pointing out numerous times that SFU would be a major factor in the Northeast Conference.