Playing its second game in two days, it took Duke a little while to find a rhythm against Georgia Southern, but the Blue Devils used stifling defense and a double-double from DeMarcus Nelson to knock off the Eagles 72-48 Monday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The win propels the Blue Devils into the semifinals of the CBE Classic, which will be played in Kansas City next Monday night.
For most of the first half, it appeared Duke thought its ticket to the midwest had already been punched.
Georgia Southern used some early hot shooting and its lightning quick point guard Dwayne Foreman to mount a lead that reached six points twice.
Foreman dribble penetrated with ease past Duke's Greg Paulus and buried a couple of long three pointers to score 10 of his team's first 18 points as the Eagles held a 18-12 lead nearly 10 minutes into the game.
Duke's defense clamped down from that point on though, and a late first half run tipped the game decidedly in the Blue Devils' favor.
After rallying to tie the score at 18, the two teams traded the lead for a few possessions until freshman Gerald Henderson put Duke ahead for good with a midrange jumper with under two minutes remaining in the half.
Nelson ended up sending the Devils to the locker room on a high note when he followed a Georgia Southern basket that trimmed the lead to three with a buzzer beating three pointer from the right wing.
Jon Scheyer pushed the ball up the floor and set up Nelson for the shot that gave Duke a 38-32 margin at halftime after the Devils had trailed a vast majority of the first half.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski wanted his team to play 20 minutes of better defense in the second half, and they did just that, holding the Eagles to just 16 points in the final 20 minutes.
Nelson's 16 points and 10 rebounds paced Duke in both categories for the evening, but once again it was a balanced effort that paved the way for Duke.
Josh McRoberts also scored 16 points, although he had an inconsistent game shooting the basketball. Scheyer played very impressively for the second straight night, scoring 11 points but also distrubuting four assists and playing an overall solid floor game.
Henderson's 13 points gave Duke four players in double figures. For a good portion of the second half, Henderson was arguably the most consistent player on the court.
He scored in transition, in the halfcourt, and picked up a pair of steals on the defensive end, including one terrific theft in transition.
Leading by 16 points midway through the second half, Georgia Southern's Antoine Johnson appeared to be on his way to an easy fast break basket, but Henderson got back on defense, positioned himself under the basket, and stripped Johnson before he could rise for a layup.
Though Paulus struggled handling Foreman off the dribble, causing Krzyzewski to rotate Nelson onto the Eagles' point guard, Paulus contributed three steals defensively and four assists on the offensive end, but he was pretty sloppy with the ball.
Paulus turned the ball over five times as he tried too many ill advised passes through traffic, but for the second straight night he played about 20 minutes coming off his preseason foot injury.
Foreman's 18 points led Georgia Southern, which scored 68 fewer points against Duke than it did in the first round of the CBE Classic against UC-Davis.