CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he never mentioned last season's humiliating loss to 14th-seeded Mercer in the Blue Devils' NCAA Tournament opener. After all, only four players returned from that team, and Coach K focuses on his program's successes.
But the Blue Devils, who are the top seed in the South Regional, sure played like a team that was determined not to repeat the sins of the past, crushing 16th-seeded Robert Morris, 85-56, in an NCAA Tournament second-round game Friday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Duke (30-4) advanced to a third-round game Sunday against eighth-seeded San Diego State (27-8), which beat ninth-seeded St. John's, 76-64.
The Colonials (20-15) have a tradition of upsets in recent years, defeating Kentucky in the NIT two years ago and St. John's in the NIT last season and knocking off St. Francis (N.Y.) in the Northeast Conference championship game this season to reach the NCAA Tournament. But after taking a 7-5 lead, they wilted during a 21-2 Duke run that included seven points from Tyus Jones and six from Quinn Cook.
The Duke guards sparked a transition game that produced a 42-25 halftime lead. That margin grew to 20 points just over five minutes into the second half, but Rodney Pryor -- who led the Colonials with 23 points -- hit back-to-back three-pointers that ignited a 12-2 run that cut the deficit to 56-46 with 11:56 left. Pryor had 10 of his points in that stretch.
"We started to hit shots more in the second half, and that gave us energy on the defensive end," Pryor said. "We got it down to 10, and we just didn't capitalize on the defensive end."
The excitement was short-lived. Blue Devils forward Justise Winslow hit a three-pointer, scored on a fast-break layup and assisted on a corner three by Jones to start a 12-0 run that restored a 68-46 cushion. The lead grew to 25 points at 73-48 after the Blue Devils made eight of nine shots in that stretch.
Describing the timeout Krzyzewski called before the Blue Devils took control, Marshall Plumlee said, "I thought we really came together and responded. [Robert Morris] got a little emotional, and every team here is capable of winning. So it can turn around just like that, and we've got to be ready and be able to respond. I would say it came from a little bit of emotion and drive that came from that timeout."
The Blue Devils, who shot 63 percent from the field, were led by Cook's 22 points, 21 from Jahlil Okafor, who shot 9-for-11, and Plumlee's 10 points and 10 rebounds.