Duke is heading down the regular season stretch

c/r BDN Photo
c/r BDN Photo

It’s almost hard to believe that there are just twelve regular season games left for the 2010 Duke Blue Devils Men’s Basketball team.  When the Blue Devils take to the hardwood against Florida State tonight in Cameron Indoor Stadium, the outcome is of dire importance.  But, then again, they are all important for the team is entering the stretch run, one that will sort out the standings before the tournaments begin in a mere 42 days.

Duke will have five more home games after tonight’s clash with the Seminoles and it’s no secret that teams must protect the home court in the balanced ACC this season.  The lone non-conference home game left is with Tulsa in a contest likely scheduled to simulate a first round type match up against a mid-major.  After that, four conference foes in Georgia Tech, Maryland, Virginia Tech and North Carolina come to Durham.

But despite the importance of tonight’s home game, the picture will likely shake out for the Blue Devils on the road.  After a stunning loss to N.C. State on a night when the Wolfpack shot lights out, Duke righted the ship by defeating Clemson on the road in one of their grittier efforts of the season.

Greg Monroe and Georgetown are on the schedule for this Saturday and that will be a war in D.C.  This game could have seeding implications, but then again so could any of them.  Still, one must admit that the Hoyas and Blue Devils are a marquee match-up smacking of an NCAA atmosphere.

The Blue Devils will later have two consecutive ACC road games twice and Miami sandwiched in between.  The first of the two are early February match-ups at Boston College and arch rival North Carolina.  Later, in late February and early March, Duke travels to Virginia and Maryland before the Senior Day finale against the Tar Heels in a game that will see Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas and Jon Scheyer’s farewell to Cameron Indoor Stadium and home fans.

So, it’s time to beam in and pay attention folks for this is the thick of the college basketball season, one which fans point to year round and there are just 12 regular season games to go.   It should be fun to watch and see how this team develops as each game becomes a war.

While looking ahead can be fun, taking them one at a time is the way this Duke team will approach these games.  That’s fine by me for sometimes you can blink and it seems like the season is twenty games old and after tonight’s key home game against Florida State, the season is indeed twenty games old.

Duke vs. Florida State Official Game Notes

Game 20
[8 AP/7 Coaches]
Duke (16-3, 4-2 ACC) vs. Florida State (15-4, 3-2 ACC)

Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010 • 9:00 p.m. • ESPN
Cameron Indoor Stadium (9,314) • Durham, N.C.

The Opening Tip

Courtesy Duke Photography
Courtesy Duke Photography

Duke (16-3, 4-2 ACC), ranked eighth in the AP poll and seventh in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll, faces Florida State (15-4, 3-2 ACC) at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 9:00 p.m. The game will air on ESPN with Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale and Heather Cox calling the action.

Wednesday’s game marks the third consecutive 9:00 p.m. tip-off for the Blue Devils.

The Last Time Out

Duke improved to 4-1 on the year against ranked opponents with a 60-47 win at Clemson on Saturday. Junior Nolan Smith scored 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 2-of-4 from three-point range, in the win.

Lance Thomas posted his sixth double-figure scoring game of the season with 13 points to go along with seven rebounds. Kyle Singler added 12 points and two steals, while Jon Scheyer had 11 points, three rebounds and three assists.

Duke shot 50.0 percent (14-of-28) from the field and committed just two turnovers in outscoring Clemson, 37-24, in the second half of play. The Tigers were held to 37.5 percent (18-of-48) shooting from the field, including 15.4 percent (2-of-13) from three-point range, in the loss. Clemson also committed 16 turnovers in the contest.

The Blue Devils outrebounded Clemson, 32-30, to improve to 15-1 on the year when outrebounding the opposition. Miles Plumlee grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, including five in the second half of play.

Numbers Game

  • l Duke and Syracuse are the only teams in the country to rank in the top 10 in both the AP Poll and Coaches’ Poll as well as The College Basketball News Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and Strength of Schedule (SOS). The Blue Devils rank eighth in the AP Poll, seventh in the Coaches’ Poll, third in the RPI and 10th in SOS.
  • l Duke is 6-2 on the year against teams currently ranked in the top 50 of The College Basketball News RPI, including a 3-1 mark against the top 25.
  • l The Blue Devils have been ranked in the top 25 of the AP poll for 51 consecutive weeks. Duke has been ranked in the top 10 in each of the last 48 polls.
  • l Duke has won 38 straight home games against unranked opponents, dating back to a 68-67 loss to Florida State on Feb. 4, 2007.
  • l The Blue Devils are 11-0 at Cameron Indoor Stadium this season with a +30.2 margin of victory. Duke has won 10 of its 11 home games by 20 or more points.
  • l Junior Nolan Smith is averaging 20.1 points per game, while shooting 55.3 percent (73-of-132) from the field and 60.0 percent (21-of-35) from three-point range, in the last 10 games. He has topped the 20-point mark in seven of those games.
  • l Jon Scheyer is the only player in the ACC to rank in the top 5 in six statistical categories; scoring (second, 18.6 ppg.), assists (fourth, 5.7 apg.), free throw percentage (first, .895), three-point field goals (t-first, 2.6 3pg.), assist-to-turnover ratio (first, 3.72:1) and minutes (first, 36.0 mpg.).
  • l Kyle Singler is averaging 17.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.4 steals per game in 11 home contests.

Checking in on …

#2 Nolan Smith – +10.1 ppg. increase from a year ago leads the ACC and is tied for 13th nationally … averaging 19.9 ppg. at Cameron Indoor Stadium this season

#3 Seth Curry – Sitting out the 2009-10 season due to NCAA transfer rules

#5 Mason Plumlee – Averaging 1.1 blocks per game

#12 Kyle Singler – Shooting 41.7 pct. from three-point range in 11 home games … 20 of 28 three-point field goals have come at Cameron Indoor Stadium

#20 Andre Dawkins – Fourth on the team with 26 three-point field goals … shooting 41.3 percent from three-point range

#21 Miles Plumlee – Leads the team with 24 dunks … has tripled his scoring and rebounding averages from a year ago

#30 Jon Scheyer – Has scored in double-figures in 18 of 19 games, with eight 20-point games

#34 Ryan Kelly – 14 blocked shots … one of five Blue Devils with 10+ blocks

#42 Lance Thomas – Shooting 82.9 percent (29-of-35) from the foul line … leads the Blue Devils with nine charges taken

#55 Brian Zoubek – Five or more rebounds in 14 of 19 games … averaging 17.1 rebounds per 40 minutes played

Big Three Pace Blue Devil Offense

Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith combine to average 52.9 points per game or 63.9 percent of Duke’s scoring.

Scheyer is second in the ACC in scoring at 18.6 ppg., while Smith (18.5 ppg.) and Singler (15.8 ppg.) rank third and ninth, respectively.

Texas Southern, Nevada, UC Davis, Fairfield, TCU and North Dakota State are the only other schools with three players ranked among the top 10 scorers in their respective leagues.

The trio of Scheyer, Smith and Singler is the second-highest scoring threesome in the NCAA this season and the fourth-highest at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski.

NCAA Top Scoring Trios

  1. Notre Dame – 53.1 Combined PPG
    Harangody (24.7), Abromaitis (16.7), Hansbrough (11.7)
  2. Duke – 52.9 Combined PPG
    Scheyer (18.6), Smith (18.5), Singler (15.8)
  3. New Mexico State – 52.8 Combined PPG
    Young (21.3), Gibson (19.3), McKines (12.2)
  4. Nevada - 52.6 Combined PPG
    Babbitt (21.5), Johnson (16.1), Fields (15.0)
  5. Houston – 51.4 Combined PPG
    Coleman (25.6), Lewis (16.4), Brown (9.4)
  6. California – 49.3 Combined PPG
    Randle (18.7), Christopher (16.3), Robertson (14.3)

Duke (16-3, 4-2) vs. Florida State (15-4, 3-2) Preview

scheyer iowa ststeDuke looks to build upon the huge win at Clemson when Florida State comes to Cameron Indoor Stadium for a nationally televised game on ESPN. It would take a heck of a game to compete with the last 3 visits to Cameron for the Seminoles. We all remember last year’s March war with Duke holding off Toney Douglas (27 Pts) 84-81. The teams didn’t play in Durham the year before that, but in February 2007 Florida State pulled out a 68-67 slugfest. And the year before that was the best of them all. In February 2006, Duke prevailed in OT 97-96. JJ had 36 and Al Thornton 37 in that epic battle.

Here’s a preview of this season’s Seminole team:

TEAM OFFENSE

As usual under Leonard Hamilton, FSU is much better defensively than on offense. The Seminoles shoot fairly well on 2-point field goals (53%), but not so well from 3 (34%) or from the free throw line (65%). They are very good at getting offensive rebounds. Ironically, they give up a lot of them too, a trend they share with Duke, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Boston College, and Wake Forest – maybe it’s just an ACC thing to have a bunch of offensive rebounds at both ends. Anyway, the main reason for FSU’s offensive struggles is their proclivity for turning the ball over. With a 25% turnover rate (1 out of every 4 possessions is offensive suicide) they rank #328 out of 347 Division I teams. Only one other BCS conference team, Oregon State, is in the bottom 60 in this stat.

TEAM DEFENSE

Florida State is one of the top defensive teams in the nation this year. They are #1 in Opponents 2-point field goal percentage (37%) due in large part to their great length and shot-blocking big men. Even though they give up offensive rebounds, opponents have a hard time converting inside. FSU also forces a high number of turnovers, which means the perimeter defenders can be aggressive knowing that the backline of the defense is always there to erase mistakes. If there is a chink in their armor, it may be their 3-point defense. FSU is last in the ACC with opponents’ 3-point percentage in conference games at 43% and they allow quite a few of them.

STARTERS

C- Solomon Alabi (7’1” Redshirt So- 13 ppg, 7 rpg, 3 bpg) is the main reason for the great interior defensive stats for FSU. Although he is still considered a developing player with a bright NBA future, almost all his numbers are better this year than last. For example, he’s improved his field goal percentage from 54% to 59% and, most impressively, his free throw percentage from 68% to 83%. In fact, Alabi has made 25 of his last 28 free throws. Also, he has been able to avoid foul trouble in most games (only 2 games with 4, none with 5). However, he only averages 26 minutes a game, so either he still has some strength/stamina issues or Coach Hamilton is living up to his reputation for over-substituting.

F- Chris Singleton (6’9” So- 11 ppg,  7.5 rpg,  3 apg has been an inconsistent player but has shown flashes lately of the breakout year many predicted (me included). He is very active on defense, averaging 2 blocks and 2 steals a game. Offensively, he has not shot well (43%) and he is the main culprit in the Seminoles’ turnover woes, with 4 per game. The last 3 games kind of sum up Singleton’s season: 22 points in 36 minutes vs. NCSU, 2 points in 36 minuts vs. Va.Tech, and 23 points in 30 minutes vs. Ga.Tech. The fact that FSU won the Va.Tech game shows they don’t have to have a big game from Singleton to win, but Duke in Durham is not Va.Tech in Tallahassee.

G- Devidas Dulkys (6’5” So- 10.5 Pts, 44% 3pt) has moved into the starting lineup and has been the Seminoles’ main outside threat. He has made at least three 3-point field goals in 11 out of 19 games.

G- Derwin Kitchen (6’4” Jr- 8 ppg, 4 apg) is the primary ball handler and a very good defender but, like his team, he has struggled on offense, shooting 41% from the 2 and 22% from 3-point land.

F- Ryan Reid (6’8” Sr- 7 ppg, 4  rpg) is still around, believe it or not, and along with Chas McFarland from Wake is the biggest agitator in the league. He does the dirty work and hustles for offensive rebounds and will probably make the hardest foul in the game.

Bench- Xavier Gibson (6’11” So) gives good size and rebounding. Jordan Demercy (6’7” So) provides good defense from the forward spot. Michael Snaer (6’5” Fr) provides 8 points per game and is the second best 3-point shooter at 37%. Luke Loucks (6’5” So) gives FSU another guard with good size. The main problem with Florida State’s reserves is they are all pretty bad ball handlers. For example, Loucks (backup PG) has 30 turnovers in 356 minutes this year. Jon Scheyer has 29 in 684 minutes.

SUMMARY

No rest for these Blue Devils as we can expect another intense physical ACC battle.  Of course, Coach K wouldn’t have it any other way.  Duke must show they can respond to a big emotional win with another energetic performance. Don’t be surprised if we have another defensive battle with points hard to come by in the half court for both teams. Duke may be due for a breakout shooting game and that would mean bad news for Florida State.   Duke needs to get the kind of effort out of the big guys that we did against Wake Forest and neutralize them on the inside. Another key will be for Duke to force the kind of turnovers that they can convert. Anytime you get transition points you don’t have to face that size (#1 average height in NCAA) in the half court.

PREDICTION

After a seesaw first half, I see Duke making a big second half run.  Projected score:  Duke 73, FSU 58

BDN talks Duke Basketball Recruiting with Prep Stars’ Rob Harrington

Rob discussed Austin Rivers with BDN's MArk Watson - BDN Photo
Rob Harrington discusses Austin Rivers and others prospects with BDN's Mark Watson - BDN Photo

I sat down with Prep Stars’ Rob Harrington to get his thoughts on Duke Basketball Recruiting.  In our conversation, Rob breaks down what he likes about the kids Duke already has locked in with verbal commitments and covers prospects as well.  We talk about Kyrie Irving to Quincy Miller and Austin Rivers and then backtrack to Harrison Barnes and more.  For more information on Prep Stars visit their site by going here Prep Stars Link-  To listen to this article and have full site access, join BDN Premium.

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Duke Women hold off Maryland to remain undefeated in the ACC

du-MD WHCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – Playing for the third time in seven days, No. 6 Duke could have really used a breather against struggling, rebuilding Maryland.

Instead, the weary Blue Devils were forced to expend every bit of their remaining energy to squeeze out a 58-57 victory Sunday night.

Jasmine Thomas scored 20 points and Bridgette Mitchell made the go-ahead basket with 1:29 left for Duke, the lone remaining unbeaten team in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

The victory capped a week in which the Blue Devils were soundly defeated by Connecticut before defeating Virginia Tech.

“I’m extremely proud of our team’s character,” coach Joanne McCallie said. “A lot of things were working against us throughout. I thought Jasmine showed incredible poise in terms of what she did defensively and, of course, offensively.”

Thomas accounted for more than a third of the Blue Devils’ points, grabbed three rebounds and had three steals.

Duke (17-3, 5-0) frittered away an 11-point lead and trailed 54-53 before Mitchell hit a runner in the lane as the shot clock expired.

After a missed shot by Maryland, Duke’s Joy Cheek made two free throws with 20 seconds remaining for a three-point cushion. Anjale Barrett then missed a 3-point attempt for the Terrapins, and Thomas made one of two free throws before Barrett connected on a 3 at the buzzer.

“We did more than survive,” McCallie insisted. “I thought we really handled adversity well. A lot of teams don’t play Connecticut. We did. Then we had a great game against Virginia Tech and you’ve got to travel. I think we really blossomed as a team in the sense of our toughness. Not everything was going our way – at all.”

Lori Bjork scored 11 points for Maryland (14-6, 2-4), which committed 19 turnovers. The Terrapins, who had their 48-game home winning streak broken by Miami on Thursday, have lost three straight overall – matching their longest skid since February 2004.

It’s also the first time since February 2006 that Maryland has lost two in a row at home.

“Obviously, there are no moral victories. But I am proud of this team,” coach Brenda Frese said. “I think it’s a great statement game for us, the fact that our teams knows they can play with anybody.”

Maryland trailed 30-25 early in the second half before Lynetta Kizer made a layup to ignite a 9-0 run that gave the Terrapins their first lead since 2-0.

Mitchell then scored on a putback, and Thomas scored the Blue Devils’ next 13 points to make it 45-38.

“I really was just taking the shots that were there,” Thomas said. “In the first half, I forced a lot of things, over-penetrated and passed up a few shots I should have taken. They were still there in the second half, and I just hit them.”

After Thomas’ scoring spree, the lead expanded to 51-40. Bjork then hit consecutive 3-pointers to begin a 14-2 surge that put Maryland back in front.

Following a series of missed shots and turnovers, Mitchell hit her pivotal shot.

Although the Blue Devils battled fatigue, they had more fight left at the end than the Terrapins.

“Credit Duke,” Frese said. “I thought in the second half they just came back stronger. I think their physicality wore us down.”

Cheek had nine points and 11 rebounds for Duke. She needs one more point to become the 25th player in Duke history to score 1,000.

Duke led 27-25 at halftime, mostly because Maryland shot 31 percent, went 5 for 13 at the free throw line and committed 10 turnovers.

Both teams had trouble shooting early, although the Blue Devils were a bit more protective of the ball in taking an 8-3 lead. Duke opened 3 for 13 from the field, but the Terrapins were even worse over the first nine minutes, going 1 for 9 from the floor with six turnovers.

Duke tames the Tiger’s 60-47 behind Smith’s 22 points

DSI A.P.
DSI A.P.

CLEMSON, S.C.Nolan Smith scored 22 points and No. 7 Duke wiped out an ugly memory from last season with a 60-47 victory over No. 17 Clemson on Saturday night.

It was last February when the Blue Devils (16-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) suffered their most lopsided defeat in nearly two decades, falling to the Tigers 74-47 at Littlejohn Coliseum.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called time out in the final moments of that game, wanting his players to soak in the cheers of Tigers fans.

In this one, Smith and Duke’s defense ensured the Blue Devils a much happier finish.

Smith had 9 points during a 14-2 second half run that put Duke ahead 43-30 with 12:33 left. Clemson could not get closer than 6 points the rest of the way.

Trevor Booker led the Tigers (15-5, 3-3) with 22 points.

It was Clemson’s fewest points at home since a 52-47 loss to Maryland on Jan. 25, 2003. Booker got little help from his teammates – while Clemson’s star made 10 of 14 shots, the rest of the Tigers were just 8 of 34.

Duke broke free from a 23-all halftime tie with six straight points to open the second half. After Clemson cut the lead to 29-28, Smith helped the Blue Devils take control.

Kyle Singler started the run with a 3-pointer, then Smith added another from long range. After Singler’s driving basket, Smith scored the next six points to put Duke ahead by 13.

Lance Thomas added 13 points, Singler 12 and Jon Scheyer 11 for Duke, which bounced back from a midweek defeat at North Carolina State.

Clemson lost its second straight to a ranked ACC opponent after falling at Georgia Tech this past Tuesday.

Clemson fans were ready for this one, even if their team wasn’t.

ESPN College GameDay broadcast from Littlejohn and about 4,000 orange-clad early risers turned out 10 hours before tip-off. A sign in the crowd before gametime summed up the mood: “Breathe if you hate Duke.”

After all, many in the crowd were still jacked up from the Blue Devils’ last visit – the 27-point Clemson victory here last winter was Duke’s most lopsided defeat since the 1990 national championship loss to UNLV.

Before losing here last season, though, Duke had won 22 straight over Clemson, including nine in a row on the Tigers’ home floor.

Duke got a measure of payback earlier this month, a 74-53 win over the Tigers at Cameron Indoor Stadium to open ACC play. In that one, Clemson was a miserable 5 of 30 in the opening half to fall behind 30-12.

This time, both teams struggled to find offense early. The Blue Devils were 2 of 6 from 3-point range and made just one of four foul shots.

Clemson did even worse from the outside, going 1 of 6 behind the arc. While Booker was 5 of 7 in the half, his teammates were a combined 3 of 15.

Each team committed 11 turnovers against lockdown pressure.

Duke’s Smith hit a 3-pointer with 1:29 left in the period to tie things at 23.

Clemson did its part to keep the atmosphere going. One of the Tigers all-time greats, center Larry Nance was introduced during a timeout. Football star C.J. Spiller got an award at halftime, telling the cheering crowd to help the Tigers pull out a victory in the second half.

The Blue Devils avoided their first 0-4 slide on the road since 1981-82, although they’re 4-0 this season at neutral sites.

Before the game, Clemson held a moment of silence for Gaines Adams, the former Tigers and 26-year-old Chicago Bears defensive end who died of an enlarged heart last Sunday. The Greenwood native was buried Friday after a funeral service about 20 minutes from campus.