DURHAM -- With Kyrie Irving watching from the bench in a sweater Wednesday night, Andre Dawkins became the young guard with a chance to step into the spotlight at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Dawkins handled his opportunity every bit as well as Irving did before suffering a toe injury on his right foot that has sidelined him indefinitely.
In the opening 12 minutes, 10 seconds of top-ranked Duke's 83-48 defeat of Bradley, Dawkins made four 3-pointers to establish himself as the most dangerous perimeter scoring threat in the game. Dawkins, a sophomore who was averaging 10.6 points per game off the bench, finished with eight 3-pointers for the game, one short of the school record, and scored a career-high 28 points in his first career start.
The win gave Mike Krzyzewski 877 for his career, moving him past Adolph Rupp into third place on the Division I career coaching victories list. Krzyzewski is two wins behind former North Carolina coach Dean Smith. Despite Dawkins' hot shooting, it didn't come easily early for the Blue Devils.
Without Irving, Duke's defensive pressure and fast break weren't quite as potent in the first half. Without Irving's penetration collapsing the defense, the Blue Devil shooters - aside from Dawkins - didn't seem quite as confident on the perimeter. Dawkins shot four of his seven 3-point attempts in the first half. The rest of the team shot 1-for-10 from 3-point range.
Guard Nolan Smith, the team's leading scorer, didn't score a point in the first half, although he did have five assists. As a result, Duke held a 32-18 halftime lead that was comfortable, but not as impressive as the leads the team has posted against many opponents during its 9-0 start.
But the Blue Devils quickly created more separation by scoring 16 of the first 20 points of the second half. After a Seth Curry 3-pointer, Duke's advantage was stretched to 48-22, and any thought that Bradley (4-5) would make this a close game was erased.
Without Irving, a couple of positive story lines developed. Miles Plumlee, the junior center who has struggled all season, had his best game of 2010-11 with 14 points on 7-for-7 from the field. And Dawkins demonstrated that he is capable of posting big numbers if that's what Duke needs.
If not for a strange set of circumstances, Dawkins could have been in the same class as Irving, the point guard who is off to a fantastic start, ranking third among the nation's freshman scorers at 17.4 points per game. After Duke lost Elliot Williams to a transfer prior to the 2009-10 season, Dawkins took summer classes to graduate from Atlantic Shores Christian School and enroll a year early out of Chesapeake, Va.
He provided scoring off the bench early in the season and was rewarded with an NCAA championship ring for his efforts. But he also experienced tragedy when his sister, Lacey, died following a car crash on the way to see him play against St. John's on Dec. 5, 2009. As an underaged freshman dealing with a personal loss, he struggled for part of the season. But he has returned stronger as a sophomore to play a huge role for Duke as a reserve - until Wednesday, when he did it as a starter.
Dawkins' eight 3-pointers were just one short of the Duke single-game record shared by Shane Battier and J.J. Redick. On a night when Duke needed a boost from somebody different, Dawkins provided it in spectacular fashion.
Photo: Duke guard Andre Dawkins (20) shoots over Bradley's Will Egolf (54) during the first half of play. CHUCK LIDDY - firstname.lastname@example.org