Devils Hold Off Pesky Titans 67-56

After waiting nearly eight months to see the Blue Devils back in action, the sell out crowd in Cameron Indoor Stadium was forced to wait an additional ten minutes to see the first basket of the 2003-2004 season as Duke was knocked back early by Detroit before rallying to overtake the Titans in the second half.

Detroit scored the game's first 12 points, making Duke look confused and nothing like a team ranked second in both major polls in the process. It wasn't until the 9:07 mark of the second half that the Devils were able to take the lead.

Freshman Luol Deng scored a game high 21 points while sophomore J.J. Redick added 19 to propel Duke to the 67-56 victory, improving to 22-3 in season openers under head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

The main culprit in the Blue Devils' struggle was poor shooting as Duke made just 16 of its 45 shot attempts from the field, but managed to knock down 29 of 36 attempts from the free throw line, including 20 of the final 22 attempts in the second half.

Meanwhile the Titans were taking advantage, jumping out on fast breaks and hitting their jump shots. On the evening the Titans shot 48 percent from the field, but coughed it up 21 times, leading to 26 Duke points.

While many of the 9,314 fans in Cameron were stunned throughout, Krzyzewski, who earned his 664th career victory to tie UCLA's John Wooden for 18th place on the NCAA Division I list, didn't seemed surprised at the Titans' ability.

"Perry (Watson) has established his program obviously. I know that they're really a good half-court defensive team. We hardly got up a transition basket. We were not able to watch tape of them so we were going into this a little bit cold. But I thought they wouldn't be as good defensively in transition, but they were terrific."

In their first game of the season, the young Blue Devils seemed stunned that they were having so much trouble on the offensive end of the floor, so they concentrated on the rest of the game.

"In the huddle, we kept telling ourselves that the shots would fall and to keep concentrating on defense," Deng said. "That was our main focus."

James Thues scored 12 points to lead Detroit, which entered it season opener as a 20-point underdog.

After trailing throughout the game, Duke finally tied the game at 41 when Deng knocked down a pair of free throws. The Blue Devils would take their first lead of the game when sophomore Shelden Williams converted a pair of free throws to push the score to 45-43.

Then, with his team leading 50-48, Chris Duhon hit a 3 with the shot clock winding down for a five-point lead with 5:55 to play. That sparked a 13-0 run, ending with Deng's 3 from the left wing for a 63-48 lead with 3:04 left.

Krzyzewski called Duhon's shot the biggest of the game.

"I just felt like I needed to make that shot," said Duhon, who had seven points and three steals. "It was a battle all day. ... As a senior, I felt I should take that shot at that point, and it went in."

Detroit, which lead by as many as 13 at 15-2, forced the Devils to miss on 13 of their first 14 shots before a goal tending call opened the Duke scoring. The tight defensive coverage was the major part of the Titan strategy according to head coach Perry Watson.

"Duke will send that knockout punch early," Watson said. "It's the first game of the season, your kids haven't built a lot of game experience, so you've got to avoid that first knockout punch. ... Surprisingly we just carried that on for a long period of time."

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