Sophomore guard Luke Kennard scored a career-high 35 points as fifth-ranked Duke University outscored the University of Maine 48-23 after intermission Saturday to pull away to a 94-55 men’s basketball victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina.
It was the 131st straight home victory against non-conference opposition for Duke, a streak that began in 2000.
It also was the fifth straight victory this season for 8-1 Duke. UMaine, which was playing the Blue Devils for the first time in men’s basketball, dips to 2-6 and will return to action against Holy Cross at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
“I think it was a terrific experience and I think it’s going to help our guys grow,” said UMaine coach Bob Walsh. “Our guys competed really hard and went toe to toe with Duke in a really tough environment.
“I thought we handled it well, unfortunately they wore us down but I think there’s a lot of positive stuff I think we can take out of it.”
The 6-foot-6-inch Kennard made 11 of 16 shots, 4-for-9 on 3-pointers, and converted all nine of his free throws while grabbing eight rebounds in 34 minutes.
Amile Jefferson, a 6-11 forward, added 20 points and nine rebounds for coach Mike Krzyzewski’s club.
Junior guard Ilker Er paced UMaine with 20 points, all in the first half, while junior guard Wes Myers added 15 points for coach Bob Walsh’s Black Bears.
Duke shot 60 percent (33 of 55) from the field compared to 30 percent (21 of 69) for UMaine. The much taller Blue Devils also had a 46-19 rebounding advantage.
Kennard capped off a 20-point first half with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Duke a 46-32 lead.
Kennard’s effort offset a big first-half by Er, a Turk who shot 8 of 12 from the field and 4 of 5 from the 3-point arc over the game’s first 20 minutes to keep the Black Bears competitive.
Er hit a 3-pointer and a jumper to help UMaine erase an early 5-0 deficit and tie the game at 7-7 only 3:11 into the contest.
The Black Bears then went without a field goal for the next 5:02 as Duke went on an 11-1 run behind the inside play of Jefferson and 6-8 freshman Jayson Tatum, the 2016 national Gatorade High School Male Athlete of the Year.
Tatum was seeing his first action of the season after sitting out the first eight games due to injury. He and 6-11 classmate Marques Bolden, also seeing his first collegiate playing time, were in the lineup for All-America guard Grayson Allen and freshman Frank Jackson, both sidelined against with nagging injuries.
Myers ended UMaine’s field-goal drought with a deep 3-pointer and Er scored from the low post to pull the Bears within 18-13 midway through the half.
After a spin drive by Jaquan McKennon kept UMaine within 20-15, the Black Bears missed their next six shots and Duke scored nine straight points — including three baskets in the paint — before Er hit a long 3 to make it 29-18 with 6:48 left in the half.
Er added another 3-pointer from deep in the right corner and soon banked in a straightaway trifecta from well beyond the arc as UMaine tried to stay within single digits, but Duke outscored the Black Bears 10-4 over the final 3:10 of the period to take its 14-point halftime advantage.
Jefferson had 11 points and five rebounds for the Blue Devils in the half while Tatum scored eight points and grabbed seven boards.
Duke then amped up its defense after intermission. After a 3-pointer by Ilija Stojiljkovic 65 seconds into the second half kept UMaine within 50-37 Kennard led the Blue Devils on a 26-4 run good for a 68-37 cushion with 8:59 to play.
UMaine wears ‘protest’ shirts
UMaine took its pregame warmups wearing black and rainbow-themed shooting shirts to protest North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2, a law that requires transgender people to use public bathrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates instead of by how they identify themselves.
“It was an opportunity for a learning experience for our guys and a chance to promote inclusion and equality,” said Walsh.
The Marist University men’s basketball team staged a similar protest before its game at Duke on Nov. 11.
On Friday, UMaine met representatives of Athletes Ally, a campus group that works to create a culture of inclusion in the Duke athletic community through advocating for respect for athletes, fans, coaches and staff of all identities.
“Four student-athletes at Duke University came and met with our guys and just talked to them about how they promote inclusion and respect within the athletic community at Duke and how athletes can be leaders on campus when it comes to that,” said Walsh.
“I think our guys now understand a little bit more the impact they can have as leaders on campus.”