Shavlik Randolph scored 20 points Thursday night to help the top-seeded Blue Devils (28-5) beat the Hornets 96-61 and advance to the second round of the Atlanta regional.
Alabama State (16-15), seeded 16th and ranked 230th in the latest RPI rankings, never had a chance in this one despite Duke's supposed shortcomings.
Malcolm Campbell scored 26 points to lead the Hornets, who play a few miles from the governor's mansion in Montgomery, and will close out the year as Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament champions -- a good run put to rest by one of the nation's elite teams.
Typical of many Nos. 1-16 matchups, Duke put in one of those performances that looked great in a lot of ways, but will also give coach Mike Krzyzewski just enough to worry about before the next outing.
Senior guard Chris Duhon started despite bruised ribs he got last Sunday in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament final, a 95-87 loss to Maryland that added some questions about Duke's readiness for this tournament.
But all is not perfect there: Duhon, the emotional center of the team and possibly its best defender, barely played in the second half and didn't score at all.
His backcourt partner, J.J. Redick, was a mixed bag.
The team's leading scorer and best shooter missed his first five shots and was held scoreless in the first half. But he made three quick shots during a brief flurry early in the second half, and finished 5-for-13 for 14 points, suggesting that maybe his late-season slump is ending.
And really, this was a night for many Blue Devils to work out some kinks and put up some numbers.
Daniel Ewing, who hurt his non-shooting hand during the ACC Tournament, made three 3-pointers and scored 18 of his 19 points in the first half.
Luol Deng was one of several Duke big men to prosper. He had 15 points and five rebounds, overcoming an ankle injury he endured last weekend. Shelden Williams finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. Randolph made his first six shots and also grabbed eight rebounds.
The Blue Devils also got some good practice on their full-court press, which they used extensively over the first 16 minutes while they built the lead to 25.
The second half was 20 more minutes to build confidence, something Duke might need after a shaky end to the season.
The loss to Maryland snapped Duke's five-season reign as ACC tourney champs, and the Blue Devils entered the NCAAs off a loss for the first time since 1998. Four of Duke's five losses have come in the last 4_ weeks.