Ian Clark’s layup and free throw with 50 seconds to play got Belmont within one for the second time in the closing minutes but the Bruins never completely overcame a 16-point second-half deficit in a 77-76 loss to Duke on Friday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“It’s a heck of a game,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “It’s a game that I’ve worried about since I knew we were plying them. … I think they’re one of the better teams. I know they’re the best team in their league.
“I think they can play against anybody. … They have bigs, they have depth and the maturity of their team is unbelievable.”
The sixth-ranked Blue Devils (1-0), who have the nation’s longest active home win streak (37 games overall, 87 against non-conference opponents), led by nine at halftime and extended that advantage to 53-37 with 12 unanswered points early in the second.
Drew Hanlen’s 3-pointer with 6:35 remaining capped a 13-2 run that got Belmont (0-1) within one the first time, 61-60, with 6:35 to play. Hanlen made four of the Bruins’ six 3-pointers and finished with 12 points. His first 3-pointer got the offense going when the Bruins trailed by 16.
Kerron Johnson had a team-high 15 points, and Clark added 13 — all in the second half. Clark’s 3-pointer at the buzzer accounted for the final margin, which was identical to the last time the teams met, a 71-70 Duke victory in the 2008 NCAA tournament.
This contest was part of the opening round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
“Hanlen was fantastic,” Krzyzewski said. “We actually played good defense with that 16-point lead and forced them into a shot that we would want, but we didn’t rebound it. They kicked it right out to Hanlen and he nailed it. That was their first 3.”
Duke answered Clark’s three-point play in the final minute with five straight points — a 3-pointer from Andre Dawkins with 19 seconds left and a pair of free throws by Ryan Kelly with seven seconds remaining.
Belmont, which also got 12 points from J.J. Mann and 11 from Mick Hedgepeth, led for most of the first seven minutes, never by more than three. The Blue Devils went ahead to stay on a pair of free throws by freshman Austin Rivers, which made 14-13 with 12:34 to go before intermission.
"We couldn’t start running it in the first half because I think we only had three steals," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. "We didn’t make the kind of things happen that we did a year ago. ... In the second half we got six steals, doubled our first half. I think we got aggressive. We got aggressive on both ends.”
Rivers and Seth Curry each had a game-high 16 points for Duke.
"We had to be very good [Friday] night to win," Krzyzewski said. "And we’ll be a lot better after playing this game."