Duke has a light schedule for the rest of this year, and that might be a good thing considering Kyrie Irving is unlikely to be available.
Then again, the top-ranked Blue Devils might not miss a beat if his replacement in the starting lineup keeps playing so well.
Andre Dawkins looks to follow his first career start with another impressive performance as the defending national champions play Saint Louis on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke has yet to determine how long Irving’s toe injury will keep him sidelined, only saying he’s out indefinitely, though coach Mike Krzyzewski said there’s a possibility his star freshman won’t return this season. Irving is averaging a team-high 17.4 points on 53.2 percent shooting and 5.1 assists.
“It is serious and whatever final decision is made, it’s going to be based on what’s in his best interests in his career, not to save him for any period of time or whatever,” Krzyzewski said. “But he could be out for a long time.”
Dawkins did a terrific job Wednesday in his new role as a starter, scoring a career-high 28 points and hitting eight 3-pointers in an 83-48 win over Bradley.
“I always feel like if you’re going to give me an open shot, I’ll knock it down,” Dawkins said. “They kept me giving open shots, so I’ve got to just keep knocking them down.”
The sophomore guard, who entered the game averaging 10.6 points, didn’t turn the ball over in 31 minutes and Duke (9-0) tied a season low with nine turnovers.
Nolan Smith went into the game averaging 17.8 points but stepped into more of a ball-handling and distributing role in Irving’s absence, going scoreless while handing out a career-high 10 assists.
Though the Blue Devils have won 19 in a row, they know adjustments need to be made without Irving running the offense.
“It was different without Kyrie out on the court,” said senior Kyle Singler, who had 17 points. “So just throughout the game, I think we got more comfortable with the lineup we had out on the court. That’s a good thing because we are a different team without Kyrie out on the court. The stuff that we’re doing is different, so we need to get more familiar with it.”
Neither those matchups nor this one versus Saint Louis (3-3) should get in the way of Duke’s unbeaten start.
The Blue Devils, whose NCAA-best non-conference home winning streak is at 82, rank fourth nationally with 88.6 points per game.
The Billikens average 64.8 and are 4-30 against ranked teams over the past 10 years. They’re 0-11 in non-conference road games in Rick Majerus’ three-plus seasons as coach.
Kyle Cassity (11.7 ppg) is the only Saint Louis player averaging more than 9.0 points. Duke has five including Irving.
Cassity was held to a season-low seven points in Saint Louis’ most recent game, a 69-60 loss at Portland on Nov. 30.
The Blue Devils have won all three previous meetings, the last coming in 1988.