No. 1 seed Duke beats Robert Morris 85-56 in NCAA opener

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Robert Morris kept fighting, even if top-seeded Duke wasn’t about to let the Colonials make history.

The 16th-seeded Colonials hung in while the Blue Devils made every shot to start the game, and then fought back to twice get within 10 points midway through the second half. But Duke pulled away to an 85-56 win Friday night in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 64.

For coach Andrew Toole, it was a teachable moment.

”What I tried to explain to them (afterward) was one of the reasons that we push so hard and we demand so much and hold you to such a high standard is because these are the games that we want to compete it in,” he said. ”These are the games we want to be in and we want to play better than we played tonight.”

The Colonials regrouped from Duke’s opening flurry and ran off a 10-0 run to get to 54-44 on Rodney Pryor’s layup with 12:26 left, seizing a glimmer of hope for their boisterous fans. But Duke soon ran off a 12-0 run, restoring order on the way to a routine 1-vs-16 finish.

A No. 16 seed has never defeated a No. 1 seed.

”They had the home crowd advantage, but the energy in the building just gives both teams energy, I believe,” Pryor said, ”We tried our best to feed off their energy, stay poised, stay calm and things like that. So it was fun playing out there.”

Quinn Cook scored 22 points while freshman Jahlil Okafor added 21 as the Blue Devils (30-4) wasted little time getting their offense revving.

That’s not to say everything went smoothly for Duke, a team with half of its eight scholarship players making its tournament debut. Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski furiously burned a timeout after Okafor blew a reverse dunk, while Robert Morris – which 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.

Duke shot 63 percent in the program’s 100th NCAA Tournament victory.

Next up for Duke is San Diego State on Sunday in the round of 32 of the South Region. The Blue Devils are a No. 1 seed for the 11th time in 18 seasons, though this is their first since 2011.

More importantly, Duke got off to a good start in the tournament after a pair of shocking one-and-done exits in the previous three seasons, both coming in its home state of North Carolina.

Cook made 8 of 12 shots, including a 6-for-10 performance from behind the arc.

Pryor scored 23 points on 10-for-19 shooting for Robert Morris, the Northeast Conference champions who were in their eighth NCAA Tournament.

TIP-INS

Robert Morris: Marcquise Reed scored 22 points. … Lucky Jones managed a personal first-half highlight, dropping down in the paint to swat away Okafor’s layup. … Robert Morris shot 36 percent.

Duke: Cook hit six 3-pointers. … Okafor went 9 for 11 in 21 minutes. … Duke improved to 33-6 in its home state in the NCAAs and 46-9 as a No. 1 seed. … The Blue Devils made 10 of 21 3-pointers.

WINSLOW’S SPARK

Freshman Justise Winslow started Duke’s putaway run with a 3-pointer, and then took a rebound for a layup and assisted on Tyus Jones’ 3. He finished with six points and 11 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Robert Morris’ season is over.

Duke will play San Diego State on Sunday.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap