Mike Krzyzewski might want to stop worrying about his team's inexperience. The loaded if young Blue Devils hardly seemed intimidated by NCAA Tournament's bright lights.
If anything, they're thriving under them.
Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year Marvin Bagley scored 22 points to go with nine rebounds, fellow freshman big man Wendell Carter Jr. added 13 points and second-seeded Duke rolled by seventh-seeded Rhode Island 87-62 in the second round on Saturday to earn the program's 26th trip to the Sweet 16. Freshmen guards Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval combined for 29 points and 11 assists for the Blue Devils.
Duke (28-7) will play either Michigan State or Syracuse in the Midwest Regional semifinals in Omaha, Nebraska on Friday. The victory gave Krzyzewski 1,098 wins during his Hall of Fame career, breaking a tie with Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt for the most ever by an NCAA basketball coach.
The Rams (26-8) and their senior-laden roster never threatened after the opening 10 minutes. E.C. Matthews led Rhode Island with 23 points but the Rams were never really in it after the Blue Devils revved it up midway through the first half.
Krzyzewski's relationship with Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley dates back to when Krzyzewski recruited Dan's older brother Bobby to Duke 30 years ago. Krzyzewski praised the Hurley family for their love of the "dignity of work," an ethos that has helped Dan turn the Rams into a force in the Atlantic 10.
Work ethic is one thing. Talent is another. The Rams have plenty of the former. When the young but rapidly maturing Blue Devils are as fully engaged as they were on Saturday, they have a staggering amount of both.
The proof came in a clinically efficient opening half in which Duke picked the Rams a part. If Allen and Trent weren't knocking down 3-pointers then they were getting the ball inside to Bagley or Carter, the program's "other" potential lottery pick who is dealing with an achy Achilles. Though he winced at least once while trying to set up on the block, when Carter had the ball in his hands, the grimace disappeared. He scored nine of Duke's first 11 points to establish the Blue Devils' dominance in the paint and when the backcourt got going, the Rams simply couldn't keep pace.
A 23-5 surge midway through the first half put the Blue Devils firmly in command. Their extended zone defense with Allen at the top disrupted Rhode Island's rhythm, at one point forcing Matthews it put up an off-balance, one-handed airball from the 3-point line as the shot clock expired.
By the time Duval's second 3-pointer of the half went down, the Blue Devils were up 45-28 at the break.
As the Rams came out for the second half, junior guard Will Leviton went over to a section of Rhode Island fans and urged them to "get up, I still need you! It's still a game."
Not really. A pair of Bagley dunks shortly after intermission pushed Duke's advantage to more than 20 and the Blue Devils were on their way to Omaha.
Rhode Island: The Rams lose five seniors to graduation, including Matthews, Terrell and forward Andre Berry but have a solid nucleus returning. Whether Hurley is there to guide them is another matter. He acknowledged his name has been mentioned in connections with other jobs. He said no last spring. It may be more difficult this time around.
Duke: For all of its offensive brilliance, the biggest difference for the Blue Devils over the last month has been their work at the other end of the floor. Duke held Rhode Island to 40 percent shooting (25 of 63).
The Blue Devils are 14-9 in Sweet 16 games under Krzyzewski.