An quick offensive flurry by DeMarcus Nelson in the first half proved to be the difference for Duke in a 54-51 victory over Indiana Tuesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke remained unbeaten in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but not without a major struggle in an offensively challenged game that saw the Blue Devils blow a double digit lead in the second half.
Nelson scored 13 of Duke's first 15 points in the opening 12 minutes of the game which helped give Duke a 15-7 lead early on while the Hoosiers struggled to handle the basketball with 12 first half turnovers.
Minus Nelson though, Duke's offense wasn't too good either.
The Blue Devils finished the game shooting 33 percent from the floor, with their winning margin coming at the foul line, where Duke outscored the Hoosiers 20-7 for the contest.
Duke's halftime lead of 33-21 didn't last long as second half action began.
D.J. White and Ben Allen got a pair of easy baskets in the lane to start the half, which helped ignite an Indiana surge that ultimately tied the game 40-40 when Earl Calloway hit a twisting midrange jumper.
Challenged on its home court, Duke responded with a quick spurt of its own to regain the lead, but it wasn't nearly enough to put the game away.
Nelson hit a pair of free throws and then following a steal by David McClure, Nelson buried a three pointer from the corner off an assist from Jon Scheyer in transition.
With the Devils back on top by five with just more than 10 minutes remaining, Duke looked like it might have enough momentum back on its side to put together a sustained run.
But after Jon Scheyer drained a three to up the lead to 53-46 with 5:00 left, Duke went scoreless over the next 4:30, all the way until one free throw from Gerald Henderson gave the Blue Devils their final margin of 54-51.
In between were some quality offensive plays by Indiana freshman Armon Bassett, who finished the game with 16 points and 4-of-5 three point shooting.
Bassett hit one of his treys and worked his way into the lane for a layup to draw the Hoosiers within 53-51 in the closing minutes.
The Blue Devils seemed to get tight, especially when point guard Greg Paulus fouled out of the game with 3:02 remaining.
Scheyer missed a forced three pointer and another open look, while even Nelson missed a pair of free throws, including one air ball from the stripe.
Despite the inability to finish off the Hoosiers offensively, Duke made its final stand on the defensive end, which was good enough to secure the three point victory.
McClure stole an inbounds pass under the basket that led to Henderson being fouled when the freshman extended the lead to three points with a free throw.
Then on Indiana's next possession, McClure again rose to the occasion by getting credit for a block on Bassett's deep heave from three point range that fell short and turned the ball back over to Duke.
Indiana had one last chance when the ensuing in bounds pass banged off Nelson's head and fell into the arms of Errek Suhr, but without any available timeouts, Suhr could only get off a very unlikely three point shot that was no good.
Indiana native Josh McRoberts hit just 2-of-8 field goal attempts against his home state school, but he did pull down seven rebounds and handled the ball well while playing 38 minutes in the game.
Paulus once again came off the bench and played just 20 minutes in the game.
Bassett's 16 points paced Indiana, while Scheyer connected for 10 points to join Nelson as the only two Blue Devils in double figures.
Duke will now gear up for another major non-conference clash this weekend against Georgetown Saturday at 7 p.m.