Duke (7-2) – Gardner-Webb (6-5) Preview
Randy Dunson & Brian Horace
December 16, 2013
Gardner-Webb (G-W) visits Cameron for only the second time in its history to face Duke. In their first meeting in 2009, the Devils came away with a 113-68 victory. New head coach Tim Craft welcomes a veteran squad. The Bulldogs go deep and are very big. They finished last year with a 21-13 record overall and went 11-5 in the Big South. In their last outing on Saturday night, behind 12 points and six assists from Donta Harper, the Bulldogs blew out Clearwater Christian 106-54. He is averaging 12.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. They are now 6-5 on the season. Duke returns from a 12-day break between games. They are seeking their 100th consecutive home win over an unranked non-conference opponent. Duke has won 107 straight games overall at Cameron Indoor Stadium against non-conference opponents. Duke is ranked No. 8 in both the AP Poll and No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. The Blue Devils are 73-17 all-time when ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll. The Blue Devils are playing their 221st straight game as a top-10 team in the AP poll. Duke is 182-38 (.827) in that span. In their last outing, Quinn Cook finished with 24 points and nine assists in the 79-69 win over Michigan on December 3. He averages 14.6 points per game in addition to a team-best 6.3 assists per game.
- Team Season Thus Far
Gardner-Webb opened the 2013-2014 season against Xavier on November 8 in Cincinnati with a 83-59 loss. Even with that drubbing, the Bulldogs will attempt to keep pace with the expectations set by last season’s squad. They keep a group that played 62% of last season’s minutes and will look to make up the rest with the contributions of three incoming freshmen. The largest gap to fill for Gardner-Webb will be on offense, as the team lost 73.6% of their three-point shooting. Following that is scoring, where they drop 45.3% from last season’s numbers. Last season, the Bulldogs finished with a final overall record of 20-11 and placed 3rd in the Big South with a conference record of 11-5. The Bulldogs went on to the Big South tournament where they lost to Liberty, 65-62. Gardner-Webb lost last year’s seniors Kevin Hartley (28 MPG) and Tashan Newsome (27 MPG). The Bulldogs must also do without Max Landis, who transferred to IPFW.
The Bulldogs are currently 6-5 and have only played one Top 25 opponent, Missouri (No. 24 in the AP poll), where they lost only by 9 points. They are led by junior Tyler Strange (6.1 APG), junior Donta Harper (12.1 PPG), sophomore Jerome Hill (10.8 PPG), and freshman center Tyrell Nelson (10.3 PPG, 5 RPG). They also picked up incoming freshmen including 6-6 Logan Stumpf, and 6-6 Donell Tuff. Also aboard are 6-1 senior Josh Castellanos (transferred from Mount St. Mary’s) and 6-5 junior Adonis Burbage (transferred from Central Connecticut State).
Since 2003, Gardner-Webb has an overall winning percentage of 43.6%. The Bulldogs have an average conference finish of 7.0 over the last 5 seasons and over the past 12 the team has an average finish of 6.1. The average final RPI (last year) of opponents on this year’s schedule is 243.7 with this year’s opponent with the highest RPI from last year is Duke (#1; currently #72). This year’s opponent with the lowest RPI from last year is Furman (#343). Gardner-Webb kicks off Big South play on January 8th against North Carolina-Asheville.
Duke Blue Devils
In their last game on December 3, Duke defeated No. 22 Michigan, 79-69, to improve to 13-2 all-time in Big Ten/ACC Challenge contests. The Blue Devils extended their non-conference home win streak to 107 consecutive games with the victory. Quinn Cook led the team with 24 points and nine assists. He also added four rebounds and two steals in 37 minutes of action. Cook scored all 24 points in the second half of play, going 6-of-8 from the field and 10-of-10 from the foul line. Jabari Parker added 15 points and six rebounds, while Rodney Hood posted 14 points, five rebounds and two assists. Overall, the Devils shot 50.0 percent (28-of-56) from the field in the game, including 60.0 percent (15-of-25) over the final 20 minutes of play. The Blue Devils held Michigan leading scorer Nick Stauskas to four points for the game.
The Blue Devils have won 21 consecutive games against teams currently in the Big South Conference and has not lost to a team currently in the Big South Conference since falling to VMI, 32-31 in overtime, on Feb. 17, 1937. Duke is 177-26 under Mike Krzyzewski in the month of December. The Blue Devils have won 21 straight games in the month with the last loss coming to Wisconsin, 73-69, on Dec. 2, 2009.
Duke has not lost a December home game since falling to Michigan, 62-61, on Dec. 8, 1996. The Blue Devils have won 61 straight December games at Cameron Indoor Stadium since that loss. They have won an NCAA-best 107 consecutive non-conference home games and have won 22 consecutive home games, tied for the second-longest streak in the NCAA. The Blue Devils are four wins shy of cracking the top 5 home winning streaks in program history.
Jabari Parker (22.1 PPG) and Rodney Hood (19.3 PPG) are the top scoring tandem in the ACC (second in the NCAA) at 41.4 points per game. The duo combines to generate 48.1 percent of Duke’s scoring on the year. Junior Quinn Cook has scored in double-figures in a career-best six straight games. He is one of three players in the NCAA currently averaging at least 10.0 points and 6.0 assists per game with a 3.5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio or better. Duke has had a 20-point scorer in each of the first nine games this season. Parker has collected an ACC-best seven 20-point games, while Rodney Hood is tied for fifth in the league with five 20-point efforts. Since seniors Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton joined the starting rotation prior to the Alabama game, Duke has lowered its scoring defense by 7.2 points per game and has forced 44 turnovers in the last three contests. Duke is shooting 79.4 percent from the free throw line over the last five contests. Cook is 18-of-18 from the line, while Hood is 26-of-29 (.897) during that stretch. Parker is attempting to become the first Duke freshman since Jason Williams (1999-2000) to score in double figures in Duke’s first 10 games of the season. Williams opened his career with 12 consecutive double-figure scoring games.
In team news of note, redshirt sophomore, Alex Murphy declared his intent to transfer from Duke on December 13. He came out of high school the 15th-ranked player in the Class of 2012 and was considered to be skilled on the perimeter player and a very good ball-handler. As a freshman at Duke, Murphy red-shirted due to concussion issues and played sparingly the past two seasons with the Blue Devils.
Although anything can happen on the hardwood, we do not envision Gardner-Webb getting within 15-20 points of Duke. Having faced North Western, Xavier, and Missouri, G-W will be looking for a season defining win against Duke and rest assured they will be ready to play. Duke will probably start slowly after the lay-off but expect the points of emphasis in practice of defense and rebounding to start yielding dividends for the Devils in this game.
- Game Keys
Keys for Duke are pretty simple, do what you’ve been doing with the added emphasis on fundamentals. Rebound the ball, play defense, create turnovers to get your offense going. Offensively: consider spacing, consider shot selection. Value the ball is something Duke has done in spurts, but occasionally they get in their own way, the unforced errors may not add up to many turnovers as a whole but they are run killers and when Duke is trying to step on the gas so to speak those turnovers that aren’t necessarily caused by defensive pressure are deadly -they keep teams in the game, they don’t allow you to stretch leads.
If you are Gardner-Webb, you have to weather the early storm and win this game in segments. You don’t have as much talent but you can win a game with desire, spunk and grittiness. Ugly up the game and make Duke work, test out the defense, go one on one in the waning seconds of the shot clock and see if Duke will bail you out by fouling.
- Key Stats
There is one important category where Duke has a statistical edge, scoring, where the Blue Devils have the upper hand over the Bulldogs, 86.1 points per game to 73.4 points per game. From a tempo-free perspective, Duke is strong in the following categories: effective field goal percentage at 59.3 and turnover percentage at 14.7.
Gardner-Webb averages 13 turnovers a game, look for Duke to try to push that number closer to 18-20 while keeping theirs to 10 or less which is around their season average.
With a rebuilding program, Gardner-Webb will be no match for Duke’s overwhelming talent and depth. Duke should be able to dispatch G-W relatively easy but for Duke it is more about going through the process and making the adjustments needed more than anything else. Not to say that the unthinkable can’t happen, but unlikely. Duke will test out what they’ve had 12 days to work on and absorb.