ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)Jeremy Roach matched his career high with 23 points, and No. 5 seed Duke beat Oral Roberts 74-51 on Thursday night in the school’s first NCAA Tournament game since Jon Scheyer took over as Blue Devils coach.
Dariq Whitehead added 13 points for the Blue Devils (27-8), winners of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. Roach has now scored 23 points in back-to-back games after setting his career high in the ACC championship game.
Scheyer helped Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski win two of five national titles as a former Duke player and assistant. He’s now trying to orchestrate some March Madness magic of his own.
In his first NCAA Tournament game as Krzyzewski’s replacement, Scheyer led Duke to a 10th consecutive win and a second-round matchup in the East Region against fourth-seeded Tennessee (24-10), a 58-55 winner over Louisiana-Lafayette.
Krzyzewski lost his first NCAA Tournament game then led the Blue Devils to the Final Four 13 times.
Scheyer smiled but cut short any comparisons.
“Let’s not go down that road,” Scheyer said. “He’s done everything you could do. I’m not going down that road.”
Oral Roberts (30-5) entered the tournament on a nation-leading 17-game winning streak but was unable to replicate its success of two years ago, when the Golden Eagles upset Ohio State and Florida during a surprising run to the Sweet 16.
“Wrong night to have a bad night. A lot of credit goes to Duke. They’re obviously really good,” Oral Roberts coach Paul Mills said. “Walking over here, they offered us Duke Blue Devil colored Powerade, so it’s kind of an indication of how much it wasn’t our night.”
Duke scored the first 15 points of the game and Oral Roberts missed 12 straight shots – seven were 3-point attempts – during a 12-minute scoring drought to begin the game. Duke’s advantage was never fewer than 13 the rest of the way.
Depleted by injuries for prolonged stretches of the season, Duke improved to 19-1 when Scheyer has his full roster available. While the Blue Devils have excelled defensively all year, their offense has blossomed down the stretch.
That figures to makes them a very dangerous team moving forward.
Roach made 9 of 17 shots from field and all four of his free throws. Dereck Lively II had 12 rebounds and paced Duke’s defense with six blocked shots, a freshman record for the NCAA Tournament.
Scheyer praised Roach, who has stepped up for Duke with the season on the line.
“Jeremy has been on a tear. For me, it’s more just his mindset. I think the scoring, the play making comes with it. He’s never rattled,” Scheyer said. “He’s playing both sides of the ball. He played 36 minutes, and defensively he did a great job.”
Summit League player of the year Max Abmas was limited to 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting for Oral Roberts. The high-scoring Golden Eagles shot just 30.2% from the field, including 8 of 32 from 3-point range.
Abmas, who averaged 22.2 points per game, is a senior. He said he hasn’t made a decision on whether he’ll return for a fifth year at Oral Roberts.
“I’m just in the moment right now and enjoying every part of the season we just had,” he said. “We’ll look at the future later.”
Oral Roberts: Abmas and three other starters are seniors, which means the Golden Eagles could have a new look if any of them decide to not return next season.
“The good news for me right now is I can get them all back. They all have eligibility to return,” Mills said. “I’m not telling you that they will, but what I am telling you is that we have a group that is very invested in getting better as players. I do feel that we’re building something here that hopefully can get to a Final Four.”
Duke: The Blue Devils are a year removed from their 17th Final Four appearance overall. The way they’re playing, another deep tournament run isn’t out of the question.
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