EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Duke won its second game against Butler in 2010, and while it wasn't as difficult as the one last April in Indianapolis there were a number of lessons learned for both teams.
Duke won't go undefeated: The Blue Devils struggled on 3-point shots in the first half and there will be another game, likely on the road in the ACC, where Duke will struggle at times and get behind. The Blue Devils do have multiple shooters, but there was too much of a reliance on the 3-point shot for most of the game.
The Blue Devils were tested on both backboards and weren't the aggressor for a third of the game. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had to implore his team to have a sense of urgency.
The Duke trio of guards pace themselves: Nolan Smith was the answer early in the game while Andre Dawkins complemented him at times; superstar freshman Kyrie Irving was the difference in the second half.
Butler is deeper than projected: Guard Ronald Nored returned after being out for two games with concussion symptoms and was a catalyst defensively. But star guard Shelvin Mack suffered what Butler said were cramps and didn't play for a good part of the second half. The game was tight before Mack suffered the cramps and Duke ran out to a 10-point advantage.
But Shawn Vanzant, who had been a bit under publicized, was instant offense off the bench and made a few 3s to help the Bulldogs cut the lead to four.
Foul problems crept up and hurt Matt Howard again: Howard was limited to eight minutes in the first half after starting strong with a 3-pointer. He was effective in the second half, but his absence in the opening half was an issue again.
The Bulldogs will be fine once they can play a full game: No one is going to project Butler to the Final Four. But don't be surprised to see the Bulldogs winning the Horizon again and being a tournament pest. This team will once again improve and be an incredibly tough out. The Bulldogs rise to the occasion as they did again on Saturday.
Halftime: Duke 33, Butler 33
The Bulldogs weren't going to take the air out of the clock. Prior to the game, assistant coach Matt Graves said the Bulldogs had to keep attacking as much as possible, knowing that if they had opportunities they couldn't waste them.
That's exactly what Butler did in the first half. The Bulldogs were the aggressor from the opening tip. Butler found that the role players showed no fear as Garrett Butcher scored seven key points, including a 3-pointer and reserve center Andrew Smith was effective with nine points and four free-throw attempts.
The Blue Devils did have plenty of open looks but made just 4 of 16 from beyond the arc. A few of the Duke treys went in and out. But Butler refused to yield on the backboard grabbing as many rebounds as Duke did in the first half.
Irving, who scored 31 against Michigan State, waited until late in the first half to score. But it was Nolen Smith who finished off the opening 20 minutes with a lengthy drive that ended in a flush. That came after Zach Hahn had buried a 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs a two-point lead.