Top-ranked Duke got a scare, but, in the end, the Blue Devils proved to be more than upset-minded Mississippi Valley State could handle Thursday in one of four NCAA East Regional games at Greensboro, N.C.
Powered by 20 second-half points from All-American guard Johnny Dawkins, Duke defeated the Delta Devils, 85-78, for their 17th straight victory.
In Saturday's second round, Duke (33-2) plays Old Dominion, which beat West Virginia, 72-64, and Oklahoma, which defeated Northeastern, 80-74, meets DePaul, a 72-68 winner over Virginia.
Mississippi Valley State, a school of 2,200 from Itta Bena, Miss., led at the half, 40-37. Then, with Dawkins scoring 10 consecutive points, the Blue Devils expanded a 59-56 lead to 69-62 with 8:41 remaining.
Dawkins finished with 27 points, Mark Alarie added 19 and freshman Danny Ferry had 13 points and 11 rebounds for Duke, the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to win more than 32 games in a season.
Mark Coleman led Mississippi Valley State (20-11) with 24 points as the Southwest Athletic Conference champions performed well in their first NCAA tournament.
Old Dominion 72, West Virginia 64--Kenny Gattison scored 27 points and keyed a second-half surge that gave the Monarchs their initial NCAA tournament victory. The Monarchs (23-7) used a confusing blend of zone and man-to-man defense to frustrate the Mountaineers, who went seven minutes of the second half with just one basket.
Frank Smith had a three-point play and Gattison, a 6-9 power forward who had 18 points after intermission, added a hook shot and two free throws in a 7-0 run that put Old Dominion ahead, 55-43, with 7:55 left.
The Mountaineers (22-11) came no closer than seven points thereafter as the Monarchs stretched their record to 20-0 this season in games they led at halftime. Keith Thomas added 19 points for Old Dominion, while Dale Blaney paced West Virginia with 17.
Oklahoma 80, Northeastern 74--David Johnson scored 24 points and Darryl Kennedy added 21 as the Sooners (26-8) rallied from a first-half deficit and then fought off the Huskies.
Oklahoma overcame a 35-point performance by Reggie Lewis, who had 25 in the second half for Northeastern (26-5).
DePaul 72, Virginia 68--Lemone Lampley scored 15 points and three teammates added 12 points apiece as the Blue Demons (17-12) staved off a comeback bid by the Cavaliers to record win.
Virginia's last shot at victory came when Tom Sheehey scored on a baseline drive with 5:14 remaining and added two free throws at the 4:54 mark to bring the Cavaliers within 57-55. But the Blue Demons scored five straight points to stop the rally.
The Cavaliers (19-11) were led by Andrew Kennedy's 18 points.