Duke's defense limited St. John's to just 10 first half points, and the Blue Devils survived a somewhat lackluster second half to coast past the Red Storm 67-50 Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Mike Krzyzewski's team picked up its 22nd win of the season and earned its second victory in New York City behind a game high 19 points from Greg Paulus and a thoroughly dominating first half performance.
The Red Storm managed just three first half field goals and the Blue Devils put together a very efficient offensive half on their way to a 34-10 halftime lead.
Four different Blue Devils scored in the opening five minutes as Duke built a 12-0 margin before St. John's ever cracked the scoreboard.
After the Red Storm closed the lead to 14-5 at the 13:00 mark, St. John's would never be within single digits again.
Two consecutive three pointers by Paulus started an extended 20-5 run for Duke over the remainder of the first half, and only a pair of Eugene Lawrence free throws in the final two minutes nudged the Red Storm into double digits.
St. John's avoided total embarrassment by playing better in the second half, as the Red Storm also benefited from Duke losing a bit of its first half edge.
The second half featured a pair of double technical fouls as well as multiple stoppages of play due to fans at Madison Square Garden throwing objects on the court.
All of those factors contributed to what Krzyzewski described as a disjointed half, but still Duke's lead never fell below 12 points.
"We played just a marvelous first half and then the second half was so disruptive," Coach K said. "There were two double technicals, the crowd was throwing stuff on the floor, and then late in the game when the game was obviously over there was another technical. It just seemed to get disjointed, and our team's concentration I thought during the second half waned, offensively and defensively. We made some big plays, otherwise we could [have lost]."
Those big plays included another pair of three pointers by Paulus, as well as an offensive rebound by David McClure when the lead had been cut to 12 with less than four minutes to play. McClure kicked the pass back outside and finished the possession on the receiving end of a Paulus assist to apply the final knockout punch.
DeMarcus Nelson added 14 points and Jon Scheyer chipped in 11 to join Paulus in double figures, while Josh McRoberts scored nine points, including five in the opening three minutes.
Lamont Hamilton paced St. John's with 17 points.
The Blue Devils now make the turn down the final regular season backstretch with two ACC games remaining before postseason play begins with the league tournament in Tampa.
Duke hosts Maryland Wednesday night at 9 p.m.