No. 2 Duke easily bests Elon 87-56; two opponents canceled

Dec 18, 2021, 1:20 AM | Updated: 3:57 pm
Duke guard Trevor Keels (1) dunks against Elon during the first half of an NCAA college basketball ...

Duke guard Trevor Keels (1) dunks against Elon during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — After having two different opponents bow out due to COVID-19 issues, No. 2 Duke beat last-minute replacement Elon 87-56 on Saturday.

The Blue Devils (10-1) led 44-26 by halftime and never trailed.

Duke’s Trevor Keels had a game-high 19 points, Paolo Banchero had 12 points and nine rebounds, Wendell Moore Jr. had 12 points and five assists and Jeremy Roach had 11 points.

Jerald Gilllens-Butler paced the Phoenix (3-9) with 14.

The Blue Devils were initially set to host Cleveland State before the team had to pause activities Wednesday. Duke then scheduled a game with Loyola Maryland before the Greyhounds had positive tests in their program, leading to a second cancellation. The Phoenix, located 40 miles from Durham, filled in, with the announcement coming late Friday afternoon.

“Well, thank God that we had the game,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “So many people were here from all over the country. It was great of Elon for making that possible.”

Duke was without assistant coach Nolan Smith due to the school’s COVID-19 health and safety protocol. The school said in a statement that an “assessment by Duke’s medical personnel indicated no other members of the program are at risk with this particular circumstance.”

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils finished their nonconference schedule with one loss — at Ohio State on Nov. 30. Their slate also included wins over then-No. 10 Kentucky on Nov. 10 and then-No. 1 Gonzaga on Nov. 27.

During the stretch, Moore averaged 16.9 points per game and Banchero 16.5 points, and the team is looking like a contender for a deep run in the NCAA tournament in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last season.

Elon: Fell to 0-7 on the road with the loss and has dropped eight of its last nine. But coach Mike Schrage was grateful for Saturday’. “I’m just glad this came together, glad the opportunity came together,” said Schrage, who worked at Duke from 1999 to 2008. “Even with the results, I wouldn’t have passed this up.”

TURNING POINT

The Blue Devils started the game on a 29-11 tear and never seemed threatened. Seven players scored in that stretch. In the first half as a whole, the Phoenix shot 10 of 26 and had nine turnovers while giving up 30 points in the paint.

STAT OF THE NIGHT

The Blue Devils finished with 25 bench points, meaning the other 62 came from starters. Four of them reached double digits, while Mark Williams had eight points.

Duke continues to make a case for having the best starting five in the country — the group combined for 19 of 39 rebounds and 11 of 18 assists. The Blue Devils also recorded 14 steals, leading to 31 points off turnovers.

UP NEXT

Duke: Host Virginia Tech on Wednesday to kick off their ACC schedule.

Elon: Face Arkansas on Tuesday before beginning conference play.

___

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No. 2 Duke easily bests Elon 87-56; two opponents canceled