Using a game against No. 1 Duke as a barometer is dangerous enough. Playing the Blue Devils in your season opener when they have already played two games can be basketball suicide.
Coach Cy Alexander and his South Carolina State Bulldogs found out the hard way Saturday night.
Disappointed by a combined 40 turnovers in their first two lopsided wins, the Blue Devils (3-0) warmed up for a trip to the Great Alaska Shootout by crushing the Bulldogs 120-56.
"We're going to be seeing this on SportsCenter, but you've got to live with it and learn from it," said Alexander, whose team was almost outscored by the Duke bench, which had 50 points.
"I told (the team) we need to be embarrassed, but we need to learn how hard you have to play, the intensity level you have to play at. Hopefully, we will play as hard as Duke plays against our next opponent."
Elton Brand led seven Duke double-figure scorers with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Trajan Langdon added 17 points. Duke shot 59 percent, handed out 30 assists, blocked 10 shots and had a 57-24 advantage on the boards.
"There was a lot of academic stuff done this week before we make this trip to Alaska and I was concerned that we might be distracted and looking ahead," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "But our team really showed a lot of respect to South Carolina State and we played very, very hard and unselfishly."
Duane Johnson and Coray Davis led the Bulldogs with 11 points each.
The defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions were coming off a 22-8 season and an NCAA tournament appearance, but picked the wrong team to open the season against.
Past history should be been some indication of this outcome before the tipoff. Duke came into the game 6-0 against the Bulldogs since 1989 with a winning margin of 35 points.
More of the same was in store for the Bulldogs as Duke scored the ninth most points in school history
"They are going to be an NCAA tournament team but unfortunately for them it was their first game, so anytime you've got the first game of the year against us it's going to be pretty tough," Duke forward Chris Carrawell said.
Duke bolted to a 23-5 lead six minutes in, hitting five straight shots during one span. And while the Blue Devils' offense was flowing, so was their pressing defense.
Carrawell said it was Duke's plan to strike early.
"We know everybody is coming after us. We're their No. 1 focus. We have pride. Hey, you've got Duke on your chest, and every time you wear that jersey you give 110 percent. We hit first, we can't let teams hit us," he said.
The Bulldogs came into the game with an inexperienced backcourt and without MEAC player of the year Roderick Blakney, who has graduated. It showed.
Duke forced the Bulldogs into 10 turnovers over the opening 10 minutes, converting into 12 points. Following its opening spurt, Duke then went on a 17-4 run to push the score to 46-18 51/2 minutes before halftime and the rout was on.
The Blue Devils ended up shooting 58 percent in the opening 20 minutes, with six dunks, six blocks and six steals. Duke also got 21 of its 61 first-half points from its bench and hit its first 14 free throws.
Brand and Langdon each scored seven points in the first 3:08 of the second half as the Blue Devils built a 43-point lead before the first timeout.
Duke hit the century mark with 8:45 remaining on two free throws by Nate James.
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