Duke came back from its longest December layoff in two decades Monday and overpowered Gardner-Webb 85-66 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The No. 8 Blue Devils were last seen beating Michigan on Dec. 3 in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Coincidentally, the last time the Blue Devils had that many days off between games came during the 1991-92 season, when they beat the Wolverines on Dec. 14 and didn't play again until beating William & Mary on Dec. 30.
A few observations from Duke's win:
• The Blue Devils showed their rust defensively in the first half, allowing the Bulldogs to shoot 62 percent from the field. They were better in the second half, but Gardner-Webb still got too many shots in the paint for a smaller team.
Duke guard Quinn Cook said the Blue Devils weren't about to focus only on outscoring teams.
"Duke (basketball) is shutting down teams," Cook said. "We've got to get acclimated and make it into a habit. We played good defense against Alabama, at times [against] Arizona and Michigan [but] we got back to our old habits today. But we don't want to make it a habit to outscore teams."
• Andre Dawkins is back in a groove. The 6-foot-5 guard made his first four shots -- including three 3-pointers -- en route to a season-high 18 points off the bench. When he's shooting like that, Dawkins, who also played a season-high 22 minutes, makes it impossible to double-team Jabari Parker in the post. It also made it impossible for Gardner-Webb to stay in its zone.
"He knows how to score the ball; he knows how to get open," Duke forward Rodney Hood said. "He makes our job so much easier as far as scoring the ball and spacing the floor, because you can't leave him."
• Cook is the tone-setter for the team. Of course it's easy for the point guard to have that role, but he didn't last season while deferring to Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee. There's no question now the team feeds off him. Cook had 11 points and nine assists in the first half.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the torch had been passed and now Cook is the veteran "running his team."
"As a freshman, he guides me, he's somebody that places me in the right position on the floor," forward Parker said. "His vision for the game is great, because you never know what he's going to do. He'll either penetrate and kick; he has a jump shot, and he can make plays -- that's a real strong part that Quinn brings to the team."