Enjoy today’s links and excerpts:

> DBR

One could be forgiven for seeing that Air Force was within seven points of Duke deep in the second half and think, wow, mediocre game by the Devils. One couldn’t be more wrong. Air Force is a really, really good team, and was an ideal opponent for Duke at this point in the season. And it was a great game for Duke and would have been even if they’d lost.

Why? That’s simple: adversity. Air Force gave Duke plenty of it, too. The Falcons are a mature team and the core has been together for a while, longer than most college teams these days. And while service academies have some real and permanent limitations, these guys can play with a lot of people, as indicated by their trouncings of Stanford and Colorado would indicate.

> Herald-Sun

Moments after Duke’s game Monday night against Air Force in the semifinals of the College Basketball Experience Classic, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski couldn’t stop spouting compliments the way of the Falcons.

“They have good talent, but they’re better together than they are individually,” Krzyzewski said. “When they play as one, it’s beautiful basketball.”

Krzyzewski just as easily could have been talking about his team.

On offense, the Blue Devils hit 12 of their first 14 shots — including baskets by six different players. And on defense, they limited an Air Force team that had been hitting 45 percent of its 3-pointers to a 5-for-21 showing to come away with a 71-56 victory at venerable Municipal Auditorium.

“We played well,” Krzyzewski said after his No. 9-ranked Blue Devils led the whole way against a previously unbeaten Air Force team that had won its last two games on Stanford and Colorado’s homecourts by an average of 31 points. “I’m very pleased with the win and pleased with the effort of my players. They had great preparation and were excited to play.

“I thought our guys showed a lot of poise tonight. We had to concentrate every second in that ballgame because they don’t take a play off.”

> News & Observer

Nelson, who had made just 6 of 14 free throws this season, hit 4 of 5 in the final two minutes to help hold off an Air Force team that had cut Duke’s 14-point halftime lead to seven with 7:12 left and gave the Devils their first taste of real game pressure this season.

“Having five guys on the court who are very unselfish makes your offense even easier,” said Nelson, who scored 13 of the 23 in the second half. “It takes a lot of pressure of your shot and takes a lot of pressure off yourself because … we’re all looking to make the basketball play.”

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