The Blue Devils will try to put together a more complete effort and notch their 100th straight nonconference victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Thursday when they host Elon in the second game of back-to-back contests.
While it had to overcome a slow start, Duke (10-0) certainly looked like the nation's top-ranked team during a span of 7:13 on Wednesday night.
The Blue Devils broke out of their early doldrums with a decisive 23-0 run that carried over into the second half and they pulled away for an 88-47 victory over Cornell.
The 23-point run was Duke's second longest of the season, trailing only the school-record 30-point surge against Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 18.
"I don't think that it's hit any of us that we're No. 1," guard Quinn Cook said. "We don't go out there like, `We're the No. 1 team, everything's going to happen like this.' That should be motivation -- we're the No. 1 team, we want to keep the spot."
Cook finished with career-high 12 assists and just one turnover against the Big Red. Senior guard Seth Curry stayed hot with a game-high 20 points, hitting three 3-pointers and shooting 7 of 10 from the floor.
After a four-point performance against Temple on Nov. 28, Curry has bounced back with 43 points on 14-of-21 shooting -- including 8 of 15 from 3-point range -- in his last two games.
Senior forward Mason Plumlee hit all eight attempts from the field and finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. He ranks among the top 10 nationally with a 64.1 field-goal percentage.
Duke shot a season-high 56.7 percent and has hit on 51.1 percent over its last four games.
The Blue Devils have also made 31 of 73 (42.5 percent) from beyond the arc during that span, ranking among the top 3-point shooting teams in the country (39.2 percent).
Playing its first game since Dec. 8, Duke had a sluggish start before turning it on to force a season-best 26 turnovers and hold Cornell to 22.6 percent shooting over the final 20 minutes.
"I didn't think we were ready defensively," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I think the last eight minutes of the first half, we started getting it, ended the half really well and the second half, we were terrific."
Krzyzewski's team could be primed for a strong defensive showing against Elon, which has struggled from the field throughout most of the season.
After a 4-1 start, the Phoenix (6-4) lost for the third time in five games on Saturday with a 78-73 overtime defeat at Massachusetts in the Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase.
Junior guard Jack Isenbarger, the team leader at 14.7 points per game, paced Elon with 22 points but shot 6 of 20.
Junior forward Lucas Troutman, who averages 14.6 points, has scored in double figures in nine straight games after adding 14 on Saturday.
Elon has shot 33.0 percent in its last three games and will need to be far more efficient to have any chance at pulling a monumental upset.
Duke was also ranked No. 1 when it defeated the Phoenix 98-72 in 2010-11, the only other meeting between the teams since Elon moved to Division I.