College Basketball Nation: 100319 pinebluff-duke

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The tape around the Duke mascot's head said it all: "Played In. Blown Out."

Arkansas-Pine Bluff exits its first NCAA tournament with a victory to its name in the play-in, er, opening-round game. But the Golden Lions found out the difference between taking on a fellow opening-rounder and facing a top seed like Duke, which sailed to a 73-44 win.

The Blue Devils still must prove they can make it beyond the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004 and that they deserved what looks like a cushy path through the South Regional. In their 2010 tournament debut, though they did what No. 1 seeds are supposed to do to No. 16s: step on their throats and never let them come up for air.

About the only drama to be found was which Plumlee would score the most for Duke in garbage time (Answer: Miles, 6-2 over Mason). The Blue Devils' 29-point margin of victory matched Kentucky's for the biggest win in the first round so far. Kyle Singler led the way with 22 points and 10 rebounds in a showcase of efficiency.

Mike Krzyzewski didn't have to spend much time working the refs. He stayed in his seat most of the second half, watching his team steadily expand its 19-point first-half lead. He called it a "workmanlike performance" by the Blue Devils.

"I thought we handled both halves really well," he said. "We knew that they would be even looser in the second half because we had a 19point lead, so you wanted to make sure you run shooters closer because there's not going to be any kind of game pressure on.

"We didn't rush things. Actually I thought we kind of played offense a little bit better in the second half, like Kyle looked for his shot instead of trying to look for something in between."

The road will get tougher for Duke. But the first part of its journey was a cruise.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Quick impressions from the first half between No.1 seed Duke and No. 16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff:

  • Can't say there have been any real surprises so far. Duke is superior in every phase of the game and has methodically asserted its will. The underdog Golden Lions weren't a good shooting team all year, and they've connected on just 24 percent of their attempts in the first half. I don't see anything to suggest that this game will get considerably closer in the final 20 minutes.
  • Duke has already shot 20 free throws as it continues to pound the ball inside and get hacked. The Blue Devils are owning the backboard, too, with a 22-12 edge.
  • One difference between these two programs must be the conditioning staff. Sculpted might not be the first word you think of when discussing Duke players, but they look like Olympians compared to Pine Bluff's guys.
  • Brian Zoubek is really big, and he nearly crashed into me while chasing a ball out of bounds. Had his momentum carried him a couple more feet, I might not be here to type this.