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Game Preview by @RandyDunson: Duke Blue Devils vs. Elon Phoenix – December 28, 2015

By December 27, 2015No Comments

Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (9-2, 0-0] vs. Elon Phoenix (9-3, 0-0]

Monday, December 28, 2015 • 8:00 PM • ESPNU • Durham, NC • Cameron Indoor Stadium

By Randy Dunson [Note: Please direct comments, suggestions, etc. to @RandyDunson.]

Team Overviews


#15/10 Duke will play the first of two home non-conference games to close out the calendar year on Monday when it hosts Elon.

Duke has the best winning percentage (.836) and second-most wins (194) in the NCAA since the start of the 2009-10 season. The Blue Devils have won an NCAA-best 123 consecutive non-conference home games. Duke is 254-3 in its last 257 non-conference home games.

Duke ranks third nationally in offensive efficiency, averaging 120.3 points per 100 possessions, and ranks eighth in the NCAA in scoring offense with an average of 87.3 points. Duke, which is averaging 17.0 fouls per game, has made 221 free throws while its opponents have attempted only 175. Duke ranks 12th in the country with a 41.7 offensive rebound percentage and averages 17.3 second-chance points per game.

Grayson Allen’s average of 20.1 points per game ranks seventh by a player in the six major conferences. Allen’s six games of 20+ points are the most in the ACC this season. In Duke’s last four games, Brandon Ingram has averaged 22.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks. He is shooting .559 from the floor and .500 from the arc in that stretch. Matt Jones has averaged a team-high 36.8 minutes per game over Duke’s last four contests. Over that same stretch, Allen has averaged 36.5 and Ingram has averaged 35.8 minutes per game.


  • Saturday’s overtime loss to Utah cost Duke a spot in the top 10 for the first time since February 2014
  • The streak of consecutive polls continues for the 15th-ranked Blue Devils
  • They have been in 162 consecutive polls, a streak that began with the preseason poll of 2007-08.
  • Only Kansas, at 130, has a current streak of more than 100 weeks. Arizona is third at 66 consecutive polls

Duke is now 59 weeks from tying UCLA for the record of 221 consecutive polls, from 1966-1980

Probable Starters

Guard – Sophomore Grayson Allen

Guard – Junior Matt Jones

Forward – Freshman Brandon Ingram

Guard/Forward –Freshman Guard Luke Kennard (or Freshman Forward Chase Jeter)

Center – Grad Student Marshall Plumlee


An experienced group of student-athletes, as well as a group of five talented newcomers, makes up the 2015-16 roster for the Elon University men’s basketball team. Elon returns 12 letter winners on this year’s squad, including seniors Tanner Samson, Tony Sabato and Sam Hershberger. Samson drained a Colonial Athletic Association best and Elon single-season record 103 three-pointer last season to help the maroon and gold end the year as the third best scoring offense in the CAA. The Phoenix has yet another challenging and exciting schedule lined up for 2015-16. The Phoenix plays non-conference road games at Michigan, Syracuse and Duke in addition to a home game on December 19 against local rival UNCG. The Phoenix begins CAA play on New Year’s Eve at Alumni Gym against reigning league champion and NCAA Tournament participant Northeastern.

The Elon University men’s basketball team heads to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face off against nationally ranked No. 10/15 Duke for the fourth consecutive season on Monday, December 21, for an 8 PM tip on ESPNU.

The Phoenix has an all-time record of 34-125 record against current ACC members.

The last time Elon defeated one of the current members of the ACC was in 2005 when the Phoenix went on the road to defeat the Oliver Purnell coached Clemson Tigers, 74-69, on December 30, 2005.

Monday’s matchup is Elon’s second game this season against a member of the ACC as they faced off and fell 66-55 to Syracuse on November 21, in the Carrier Dome in a Battle 4 Atlantis mainland game.

Elon’s record against current ACC teams is: Clemson (1-1), Duke (7-20), Florida State (0-1), Georgia Tech (0-3), Miami (1-0), North Carolina (4-18), NC State (8-21), Notre Dame (0-2), Virginia (0-6), Virginia Tech (7-14), Wake Forest (6-38), Syracuse (0-1).

Elon’s game at then #24 Michigan on November 16 this season marked the program’s 22nd against a nationally ranked team since transitioning to Division I. Elon is 0-22 in those contests.

Last season, Elon’s lone game against a ranked opponent was #2 Duke on December 15, 2014. The Phoenix faced three nationally ranked teams during the 2013-14 year – #7 Duke, #21 Colorado and #15/16 UMass.

Elon’s game against UMass in 2014 at Alumni Gym marked the first time in school history it hosted a nationally ranked team. The 10-point margin of defeat against UMass is the closest Elon has been in any game versus a nationally ranked team.

This season, 37.9 percent (129-of-304) of Elon’s made baskets have come from behind the three-point line. The Phoenix is shooting 35.4 percent from deep and is averaging a CAA-best 10.8 triples a game, ranked eighth in the NCAA this season.

Elon’s 18 3-pointers against the Alabama State Hornets on December 16 were the most a Phoenix team has made in a game during the coach Matheny era. Tanner Samson has a team-high 41 made treys this season, while Dainan Swoope is right behind him with 30. A total of nine Phoenix have made a bucket from deep this season.


  • Elon is off to its best start in 25 years with a 9-3 overall record. It’s the first time in the program’s Division I era that Elon has won nine of its first 12 games.
  • The last time Elon won at least nine of its first 12 games was the 1990-91 season when the team started 10-2 overall
  • Elon’s freshmen have made an impact to start the 2015-16 season scoring 35 percent of Phoenix points to start the year
  • 319 of the team’s 908 points have been scored by a freshmen, which includes 126 from Dainan Swoope, 90 from Steven Santa Ana, Tyler Seibring has tabbed 81 and Karolis Kundrotas has scored 20
  • Sheldon Eberhardt scored his first-career basket on December 13 against Wesley College scoring two points in the final six minutes.

Probable Starters

Guard – Junior Luke Eddy

Guard – Sophomore Dmitri Thompson

Guard – Senior Tanner Samson

Forward – Junior Christian Hairston

Forward – Freshman Tyler Seibring

Last Time Out


Kyle Kuzma scored 21 points to lead Utah to a 77-75, overtime win over No. 7 Duke in the Ameritas Insurance Classic on Saturday, December 19.

Jakob Poeltl had 19 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out with 31 seconds left in overtime for Utah (9-2). Duke’s Luke Kennard led all scorers with 24 points. However, the Blue Devils lost for the second time this season, falling to 9-2.

Utah led 73-67 after Jordan Loveridge made four free throws in a 10-second span, but Kennard brought Duke back, scoring eight points in 16 seconds to cut Utah’s lead to 77-75. Following a turnover by Dakarai Tucker, Duke had a chance to tie, but Brandon Ingram missed a layup and Kuzma grabbed the rebound.

The Phoenix had the final possession of regulation, but Kuzma missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Kuzma had tied the game 60-60 on a layup with 1:50 left. Lorenzo Bonam added 12 points for Utah.

Grayson Allen entered the game averaging 21.4 points per game, however it was reported prior to the game that he had been experiencing flu-type symptoms, and it was visibly noticeable during the first half. Against Utah, Allen didn’t score until 1:50 into the second half and finished with seven points.

Duke leads the all-time series 3-2. Utah’s other win against the Blue Devils happened on March 14, 1970, in New York City. Duke had won four in a row at Madison Square Garden. The Phoenix made sure there wasn’t going to be a fifth.

Utah took a 65-60 lead after its first two possession of overtime. Brandon Taylor opened with a 3-pointer from the left side, and Poeltl followed with a jumper.

Duke took its first lead since early in the game on a 3-pointer by Matt Jones with 11:10 left for a 47-44 advantage. The 3-pointer highlighted a 14-0 Duke run in a three-minute span, including Ingram’s steal and breakaway jam to tie the game at 44.

Kennard followed his missed 3-pointer with a put-back then later made a 3 from the right side to extend the lead to 60-55. During the Duke run, the Blue Devils limited Utah to 10-for-29 shooting from the field in the second half. Utah attacked Duke’s interior defense in the opening 20 minutes to lead 33-30 at halftime. The Phoenix had 11 layups or dunks in the first half and shot 14-for-27 from the field.


  • The Blue Devils came into the game averaging 87.3 points per game, 10th in the NCAA.
  • Utah finished the game shooting 45.2 percent from the field
  • The announced attendance for the neutral-site game was 13,174. Utah played its first game at Madison Square Garden since 2003


In what was a thrilling finish, the Elon University men’s basketball team used clutch free throw shooting and strong defense in the final three minutes to earn a hard-fought 86-81 road victory against UNC Asheville last Monday night, December 21 at Kimmel Arena.

Seven Elon (9-3) players finished in double figures against the Bulldogs. Elon was paced by Christian Hairston’s third-career double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds. Tanner Samson and Luke Eddy each finished with a team-high 14 points, Dainan Swoope scored 13, Steven Santa Ana notched 12, and Dmitri Thompson and Tyler Seibring tallied 10 points apiece.

UNC Asheville (7-5) was led by Will Weeks and Kevins Vannatta as they each scored a game-high 16 points. Dwyane Sutton recorded a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds.

Elon opened the game with a 9-4 run in the first two and a half minutes for the early advantage. UNC Asheville would respond with two 10-0 runs to eliminate Elon’s five point lead. The Bulldogs recorded their first 10-0 to take a 14-9 lead at 15:06. After Elon brought it back to a one-point game at 20-19 with 11:28 left in the half, UNC Asheville pulled out another 10-0 run to take an 11 point lead 30-19 at the 7:58 mark in the half. Elon responded using a 20-8 surge over final 7:50 in the half to take a slim 39-38 lead heading into halftime.

In a back-and-forth affair in the second half, Elon pulled out to its largest lead of the game 62-56 with 11:28 to go after a Samson layup. The Bulldogs would then tie the game back up 67-67 and 69-69 with just over seven minutes to play. The Phoenix surged out to a 77-72 lead with 3:13 to play following a Seibring 3-pointer. UNC Asheville brought it back within one 78-77 with 1:53 left, but Hairston made a big layup with 1:43 remaining to give Elon an 80-77 cushion.

Eddy came up with a huge rebound with five seconds to play and made both free throws. Samson hit another pair with one second left, and the Phoenix held on for the big road win, 86-81, against UNC Asheville.


  • Head coach Matt Matheny ties Bill Morningstar for sixth all-time in career victories with his 101st win on Monday
  • Elon is off to its best 12-game start since the 1990-91 season; that team started the season 14-2 overall
  • Longest streak of six since Elon went on an eight game win streak in 2013-14
  • The Phoenix is 3-2 in true road game to start the year, the first time the Phoenix have done so during the Matheny era and first time in the program’s Division I era.
  • Elon has scored at least 80 points in five of its last seven games, and three of its last four


Monday will mark the 28th all-time meeting between the Elon Phoenix and Duke Blue Devils since the series started back in 1911. Elon and Duke will face off for the fifth time in the last six years, and fourth at Cameron. The Blue Devils have won seven straight in the series, and have the upper hand in all contests during Elon’s Division I era.

Elon’s last win against Duke was just over 93 years ago on February 6, 1922, where the Fighting Christians won 30-29 over Duke, who was then called Trinity. Last season, No. 2-ranked Duke defeated Elon 75-62 on December 15, 2014 in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

In terms of a few key offensive and defensive statistical parameters when looking at these two teams head-to-head, Duke has an edge in most all of these parameters when paired against Elon. Of interest was the downward movement in terms of national rankings in these categories. In terms of scoring margin, Duke is much more proficient in scoring, however they dropped to 23rd from the 18th spot. Elon ranks 11th. The Phoenix & Blue Devils are evenly matched in RPG, but in terms of Rebound Margin, Duke plummeted to 56th nationally (+6.1) from 31st the week prior Elon is ranked 137th at +2.8. In terms of turnover margin, Duke also plummeted from a ranking of 63rd last week to 34th this week (+2.4 TO/GM to +3.5 TO/GM) whereas Elon ranks 241st (-1.1 TO/GM). This game is fairly even in terms of statistics.


Duke2015-16 Regular Season Key Stats ComparisonElon
86.2 (+16.5)PPG (Scoring Margin)82.8 (+7.1) 111-23
69.6Opponents PPG75.8
53.3Effective FG%53.5
43.0Opponent FG%45.1
38.43PT FG%33.9
34.5Opponent 3PT FG%33.9
40.6 (+6.1)RPG (Rebound Margin)40.0 (+2.8) 137-56
34.5Opponent RPG37.3
7.1SPG (%)9.3
9.6 (+3.5)Turnovers Per Game (Margin)14.2 (-1.1) 241-34
12.9Opponent TOPG12.1

Four Factors to Winning

[If you wish to learn more about how the four factors are calculated and implemented, a description can always be found here,] [Please note that the graphical depiction is forthcoming.]

Duke has the edge in all of the four factors. When it comes to shooting the ball more efficiently, the Phoenix the have a slight edge over the Blue Devils at 53.5% vs. 43.3%. Duke has a significant edge in handling the ball at 13.9% vs. 18.8% and another significant edge when it comes to getting to the free throw line, 45.9% vs. 34.9%. Finally, Duke has an overwhelming edge in offensive rebounding (39.6% vs. 29.4%) [This number has dropped, as well as other rebounding statistics continue to drop with the absence of Amile Jefferson].

Key Points to Consider

First, a few points regarding both team’s overall profile at this point:


  • Difficulty defending dribble penetration
  • Makes the most of its possessions
  • Does not turn it over much
  • Does not send teams to the line often


  • Up-tempo offense
  • Makes the most of its possessions

Now, a few key points to consider (refer to the Endgame). These may often carry over to future games but keys specific to a current opponent will always be mentioned.

[I intend to write a more in depth article regarding how the impact of Amile Jefferson will have on the team, so the following concentrates more on the Elon game.]

This will be the third game for Duke without Amile Jefferson. The impact that Amile Jefferson’s absence will have on this game, and others, have already been noticeable.


Let me be very clear from the outset that this will a tough game. Not only will Duke be coming off of 8-day hiatus since its last game, this is a very good Elon team that has won sixth straight and has played a very tough schedule thus far. They can also shoot lights out from behind the arc when hot.

Duke learned about life without Amile Jefferson before the holidays, and the harsh reality is likely to linger through most of January.

After sitting on a bitter loss without their star forward for eight days, the 15th-ranked Blue Devils will continue their search for a way to fill the void when Elon visits on Monday night.

Duke (9-2) is left with one true post player, four wings and a young point guard with Jefferson out indefinitely due to a fractured foot. The Blue Devils cruised past Georgia Southern 99-65 on December 15 in the senior’s first missed game, but his absence was felt four days later in a 77-75 overtime loss to current No. 24 Utah at Madison Square Garden. The loss snapped Duke’s seven-game winning streak and raised questions about their lineup with six players logging 97.3 percent of the minutes.

A quote from Coach K had me a bit befuddled. “It’s a position where we have no depth or no experienced depth,” Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We have five perimeter guys who are really good players, and we had two really good bigs and a developing young big. And Amile’s played the best of the bigs, so we’re a much different team without him.” This quote begs one to question why was not Chase Jeter tested much earlier on and for more minutes. Duke has to have had a Plan B in place for injuries in each spot. Thus far, it appears that the loss at the four stop is to rotate Brandon Ingram to the that spot while giving Chase Jeter ‘teachable’ minutes at that spot as well. Of course, everyone is asking about Sean Obi, who is a natural at that spot. Speculation is running rampant that he is ill or possibly injured. Whatever the reason, he has only had ‘un-teachable’ minutes since Amile’s injury.

The lack of depth in the frontcourt showed in the box score as Duke was outrebounded for the first time this season, 56-38. The Blue Devils entered the game ranked seventh in the nation with 87.3 points per game but finished with fewer than 80 for the third time while shooting a season-low 29.9 percent, a whopping 10.8 percent short of the next lowest.

It didn’t help that leading scorer Grayson Allen shot 3 for 18 while battling the flu and center Marshall Plumlee missed most of the second half with foul trouble.

Plumlee is Duke’s only real post player other than freshman Chase Jeter, who played just six minutes and isn’t ready to contribute regularly. Allen, Brandon Ingram, Matt Jones and Luke Kennard play the wings, while Derryck Thornton runs point.

Another quote by Coach K that piqued my interest was “If there’s only so many lifeboats on the ship, you know, you don’t have a choice”. All NCAA Men’s Basketball programs have 13 scholarships to give. Duke currently have 10 scholarship players. What of the missing 3? Without going to the stats history books, Coach K has never doled out his full number of scholarships with the exception of a few years going way back. Adding those three combined with walk-ons allows a team to be much more versatile in times of adversity.

The Blue Devils host Long Beach State on Wednesday before opening their conference schedule at Boston College on Saturday. Duke has won 14 consecutive games at Cameron Indoor Stadium and 51 of 52 there against nonconference opponents.

Elon (9-3) rattled off six consecutive wins before Christmas and will search for its first win over a ranked opponent in 23 tries since becoming a Division I team in 1997. That stretch includes four losses to Duke in the last five seasons, the closest last December’s 75-62 loss in Durham.

The Phoenix dropped their only opportunity against a ranked opponent this season with an 88-68 loss at then-No. 24 Michigan on November 16.

Elon has won three of its first five true road games, the first time it has done that as a D-I team. The nine wins are the most for the Phoenix through a dozen games since 1990-91.

The Phoenix are among the nation’s top 10 teams in 3-pointers made (129) and attempted (364), though their percentage (35.4) is not among the top 125.

I see this game as a low-scoring affair, with both teams being a bit rusty. Duke wins 69-52.

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