TORONTO - Following a three-and-half-month layoff, Kyrie Irving looked rusty — for a few minutes anyways.
After an 0-2 start from the field, Duke’s superstar freshman found his game and the Blue Devils ran over 16th-seeded Hampton 87-45 on Friday.
Irving scored 14 points and added two assists — after averaging 17 and 5 before injuring his foot on Dec. 4 — including one spectacular layup.
Irving said he was nervous and had to get rid of some butterflies, but the man regarded as the best point guard in college basketball quickly flashed his skills, serving notice that already solid Duke had received a substantial boost.
After taking a quick charge and missing a shot badly, Irving took over.
Despite playing only 20 minutes, Irving led Duke in scoring, while three teammates also scored in double figures.
Up until Wednesday, a tournament return for Irving was not expected until the Elite 8 — at the earliest. But he continued to progress in practice, proving that he was ready to go.
“A guy with his talent, at 70% is better than a lot of guys at 100%,” said teammate Andre Dawkins.
Duke’s win sets up a quite timely third-round meeting with No. 8-seed Michigan (21-13) — 30-point winners over Tennessee on Friday.
Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski will be going for his 900th career win against a team that he has a history against. He would join Bobby Knight (902)as the only other Division I men’s coach to turn the trick.
In a recent ESPN documentary, former Michigan star Jalen Rose revealed that in his younger days he was not a fan of Duke or black players that attended the prestigious school, which caused Duke alums Grant Hill and Elton Brand to respond this week — Hill in a less-than-friendly manner.