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 19‑point 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.