Duke Survives Drexel

The old saying advises teams to take the season one game at a time. For most of their Wednesday night semifinal match up against the Drexel Dragons it seemed as though the Blue Devils were looking past their opponent to Friday's championship round. It nearly bit them as the Dragons fought tooth and nail before ultimately bowing out late, 78-68.

J.J. Redick scored 31 points, everyone of them crucial as the Blue Devils advanced to face the winner of Memphis vs. UCLA match up on Friday night.

And it wasn't easy as the Dragons jumped out to a 16-11 while Duke looked lethargic as it plodded along through the first eight minutes of the game before head coach Mike Krzyzewski benched four of his five starters in an effort to wake his group up. They responded with a 7-0 run to take the lead 18-16. The game would go back and forth repeatedly from there with the lead changing hands 16 times before Duke was able to cling to a 41-40 halftime lead. Despite the lead, the Dragons were quicker to the ball while riding the wave of momentum created by the starting backcourt of Dominick Mejia and Bashir Mason who combined for 40 points on the night, including a career best 25 from Mejia.

That intensity carried throughout the entire game for the Dragons as they out-rebounded the bigger Blue Devils 35-23, a total that included 13 offensive rebounds.

Not that they needed any help, but the Dragons also got a boost when Duke's best perimeter defender, sophomore DeMarcus Nelson, sustained an ankle injury that sidelined him early in the first half and kept him in the locker room for the remainder of the game.

With their sophomore stopper out, the Blue Devils turned to Redick and fellow senior Shelden Williams for a lift. However, Williams was saddled with his fourth foul early in the second half – forcing him to the sidelines.

At that point it was time for the freshman class to step up led by big forward Josh McRoberts who logged a career best 10 points, including a pair of key back to back buckets that pushed the Duke lead to 59-50 at the 12:45 mark. Drexel would pull to within five, but would get no closer from there as Duke held on to improve to 4-0 on the season.

Williams finished with 20 points and nine rebounds. McRoberts added six boards while classmate Greg Paulus added five assists against no turnovers in 25 minutes of action. Meanwhile Martynas Pocius, another freshman, added seven points in 13 minutes off the bench.

Nelson's initial prognosis was a hair line fracture. The 6-foot-3 sophomore was taken to a local hospital for X-rays and is not expected to be available for Friday's title game.

Redick's 31 points moved into 13th place on the school's career scoring list, passing Dick Groat and Jeff Mullins.

With the victory, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski tied Temple's John Chaney for 14th place on the career victory list 725. The Blue Devils also improved to 17-2 in the tournament.

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