DURHAM — Evansville head coach Marty Simmons knew what Duke’s key to success was on Wednesday night.
“They pressured the (expletive deleted) out of us,” he said. “They got after us.”
After a lackluster defensive effort contributed to Duke’s loss to Boston College in its ACC opener a week and a half ago, the Blue Devils were dialed in for their last game before a holiday break.
Duke built a 40-point halftime lead and pulled away in the second half, demolishing Evansville 104-40.
“Defensively, that was our best day of team defense we’ve had,” senior Grayson Allen said. Duke forced 21 turnovers, its highest total since Jan. 7 of this year. The 40 points allowed were the fewest since 2013 and the 64-point victory margin was seventh-best in school history.
The renewed defensive vigor was the result of two weeks of practice.
“We’ve had practice and we didn’t have away games,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “The stretch we had was uncommon. I don’t know how we don’t have that every year.”
“In practice, we’ve focused on defense,” Wendell Carter Jr. said. “The offense is always there — we’re a great, talented team on the offensive end, but the defensive end is what made us a complete team tonight.”
Carter was the offensive star of the evening, scoring a career-high 27 points, including shooting 4-of-7 on 3-pointers. Coming into the game, he’d made just 3-of-7 threes on the season.
“They backed off of me and the coaches told me to just shoot it if I’m open,” he said. “So I just started shooting it. It was feeling good. It’s something that I’ve worked on a lot in practice. It just felt good leaving my hand, so I just kept shooting it.”
He wasn’t the only one feeling good shooting the ball. Duke hit 16 3-pointers, its most since the opening game of the 2014-15 season and seventh-most in school history.
Duke also had 32 assists on 39 made baskets, coming two shy of the school single-game record for assists, set two games prior, against St. Francis.
Duke gets to go into another extended break on a high note. The Blue Devils don’t play again until Florida State on Dec. 30.
“That was a great win but we cannot be satisfied with this,” Marvin Bagley III said. “We still have not won a conference game. That’s how I see it and that’s my motivation. I think that’s the rest of the team’s motivation — to get our first conference win and continue to get conference wins.”