No. 8 Duke beats Gardner-Webb 85-66

AARON BEARD AP Basketball Writer Published:

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Jerome Hill and Gardner-Webb kept knocking down shots to stay in the game with No. 8 Duke on Monday night.

Hill scored a career-high 22 points while the Runnin' Bulldogs shot 54 percent in the 85-66 loss to the Blue Devils. It was a strong shooting performance for Gardner-Webb, which hit its first six shots and had four players finish in double figures.

Hill finished 9 for 10 from the field to go with nine rebounds to lead the Runnin' Bulldogs, who got within a dozen points on Hill's basket with about 17 minutes left but could draw no closer.

Gardner-Webb shot 63 percent in the first half to trail by 14 points and survive Duke's fast start, but cooled to 46 percent after halftime.

Coach Tim Craft said his team just couldn't string enough defensive stops together to let the offense close the gap even more.

"When we made a few shots, they always recovered with a run like good teams do," Craft said. "They were able to do that tonight. Anytime we kind of cut into it a little bit, they responded with a run to open it back up to 16, 18, and it was kind of like that the rest of the second half."

Freshman Jabari Parker scored 21 points and Andre Dawkins added a season-high 18 points for the Blue Devils (8-2), who were playing their first game in nearly two weeks.

Duke's offense came out strong and shot 50 percent with nine 3-pointers, maintaining a double-digit lead for most of the game even though they didn't do a lot to slow the Runnin' Bulldogs' hot shooting.

Duke led by 23 points in the second half on the way to earning its 108th straight home nonconference victory.

Duke hadn't played since beating Michigan 79-69 here on Dec. 3 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, ending a stretch of four games in 10 days that included a loss to top-ranked Arizona in the NIT Season Tip-Off championship and a one-point home win over Vermont just before Thanksgiving.

The Blue Devils didn't have a lot of drama Monday night against the Runnin' Bulldogs (6-6). Still, they never put together a knockout run, either, coasting with a comfortable lead for the final 15 minutes.

Parker finished 7 of 12 from the field with six rebounds in 26 minutes.

Dawkins, a fifth-year senior guard who sat out last season while he dealt with his sister's death during his freshman year, finished 6 of 10 from the field, including 4-for-8 shooting from 3-point range.

Quinn Cook added 16 points and nine assists for Duke, while Rodney Hood scored 15 points.

The Blue Devils' legs looked fresh Monday, at least when it came to their first-half shooting.

With Dawkins knocking down his first four shots, Duke started the game 17 of 23 from the field (74 percent) to build a double-digit lead. That included a 7-0 burst in a span of a minute, with Tyler Thornton knocking down a 3 off an inbounds pass and Parker following with a jumper in the lane and a dunk on an alley-oop feed from Cook to make it 46-25 with 5½ minutes left in the first half.

The only problem for Duke? Gardner-Webb didn't miss much, either.

The Runnin' Bulldogs scored seven straight points shortly before halftime and Duke led 53-39 at the break.

After Hill's layup made it 56-44, Hood answered with a three-point play to turn away what amounted to Gardner-Webb's closest push.

Duke finished with a 37-22 rebounding advantage and scored 13 second-chance points.