Game Preview by @RandyDunson – Duke Blue Devils vs. Long Beach State Beach – December 30, 2015

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Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (10-2, 0-0] vs. Long Beach State Beach (49ers) (6-8, 0-0]

Wednesday, December 30, 2015 • 4:00 PM • Fox Sports South/RSN • Durham, NC • Cameron Indoor Stadium

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


Team Overviews

DUKE

#12/10 Duke will wrap up regular-season non-conference play on Wednesday when it hosts Long Beach State at 4 PM ET.

Duke has the best winning percentage (.837) and second-most wins (195) in the NCAA since the start of the 2009-10 season. The Blue Devils have won an NCAA-best 124 consecutive non-conference home games.

The Blue Devils employ one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks, ranking third nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency (118.4) and sixth in the NCAA in scoring offense (87.8). Duke has scored nearly a quarter of its points this season at the free throw line (22.4 percent). The Blue Devils have made 48 more free throws (236) than its opponents have attempted (188).

With five ballhandlers in its seven-man rotation, Duke ranks among the national leaders in turnover average (9.8) and turnover percentage (13.8 percent of offensive possessions). Duke ranks 10th nationally in offensive rebound percentage (40.3) and 11th in the NCAA in offensive rebound average (15.2). Duke averages 18.0 second-chance points per game. Duke averages 9.0 three-pointers per game and shoots .402 from deep at home this season.

Matt Jones ranks in the top five in the ACC in both threes per game (2.7) and three-point percentage (.444). Grayson Allen’s average of 19.8 points per game ranks sixth by a player in the six major conferences. Since December 15, Brandon Ingram has averaged 22.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.3 steals.

Notables:

  • NA

Probable Starters

Guard – Sophomore Grayson Allen

Guard – Junior Matt Jones

Forward – Freshman Brandon Ingram

Guard/Forward –Freshman Guard Luke Kennard (or Freshman Guard Derryck Thornton)

Center – Grad Student Marshall Plumlee

Long_Beach_State_49ers_football_logo

The Beach closes out the non-conference schedule with one final marquee game facing off against No. 12 Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 PM ET.

The Beach has been one of the nation’s best teams with the ball this season. The 49ers rank 54th in the nation in assists per game and are 35th in assist/turnover ratio, and have shot extremely well from 3-point range as well. The Beach is shooting 39.1 percent as a team, which ranks 41st in Division I.

This season, the Beach has one win over a power conference team, as the Beach opened up the Gildan Charleston Classic with an 80-77 win over Seton Hall. Nick Faust scored 16 points and Travis Hammonds scored 14 as Long Beach State picked up a critical non-conference win.

LBSU has four starters with former DI experience, making up for having no returning starters in 2015-16. Senior Nick Faust transfers in from Maryland, and the Beach gets a pair of sophomores in Gabe Levin from LMU and Roschon Prince from USC, along with 2013-14 LBSU starter A.J. Spencer who missed 2014-15 with a knee injury. Combined the foursome averaged 33.8 points per game in 2013-14, and that number has gone up to 42.2 points per game in 2015-16.

Nick Faust blew past 1,000 points scored in his career with a big week in Charleston. The senior has scored in double-figures in all of his games at the Beach, and the Baltimore, Md. native leads Long Beach State in scoring at 16.2 points per game as well as in minutes, averaging 31.1 per game.

Faust was named the Big West Player of the Week after a tremendous week for the Beach on December 7. Over the course of four games in six days, Faust averaged 21.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting over 50 percent both from the floor and from three to earn the award, the first for the 49ers this season.

Justin Bibbins has been one of the best distributors in the nation this season. Bibbins is ranked 14th nationally in turnover/assist ratio and 15th in total assists, averaging 5.9 per game for the Beach while adding 8.8 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. Bibbins is one of just four players in the country to have 10 games of 5 points and 5 assists in the nation this season.

The Beach has featured very balanced scoring this season, with seven players averaging over six points per game in 2015-16. In addition to Faust, Travis Hammonds is averaging double-digit scoring on the year with 10.7 points per game, while A.J. Spencer (8.9), Justin Bibbins (8.8), Roschon Prince (8.6), Gabe Levin (8.4), and Noah Blackwell (6.4) are also being strong contributors this season.

While it had been three full seasons since LBSU had five players score in double-figures, this squad has already had five players finish in double-figure scoring three: Once in the opener against BYU-Hawaii, a second time against Oklahoma State in Charleston, and the team’s last home game against Tampa. Additionally, Long Beach State has seen eight of its nine regulars score in double figures this season, with Branford Jones being the latest after scoring 10 points at Pepperdine.

On the bench for the Beach, junior Anson Moye, two-sport athlete and LBSU Track and Field High Jumper Quentin Shropshire and redshirt freshman Alex Rifkind have each played in two or three games this season. Sophomore Temidayo Yussuf is on the sidelines for an extended period following a second injury this season.

Notables:

  • With each win in 2015-16, Dan Monson increases his own record of career wins at Long Beach State. Monson, in his ninth season, passed two legends of the game and of LBSU last year, passing Seth Greenberg and Jerry Tarkanian to move into the top spot among the winningest coaches at the Beach.
    • As usual under Dan Monson, Long Beach State will likely again have one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in the nation. Three teams the Beach will play currently rank in the Top 25, as the Beach faced Virginia (#6) in Charleston and No. 8 Arizona last week, with Duke next on the schedule. UCLA has reached the Top 25 since the two teams played, and Oregon spent a good chunk of the season ranked as well.
  • Over the past six seasons, Long Beach State has ranked no lower than sixth in non-conference strength of schedule, and the Beach has ranked in the top three in five of the last six years, including leading the nation in non-conference strength of schedule in 2012-13.
  • Long Beach State picked up back-to-back wins against Top 100 RPI opponents early in the season. The Beach defeated BYU 66-65 in a defensive struggle at home, and then outscored Seton Hall 80-77 in the opening game of the Gildan Charleston Classic to hold on to what should be two impressive wins down the road. The Beach added two more important resume builders winning on the road at Colorado State and topping New Mexico State at home.
  • LBSU opened the season 2-0 for the first time since 2011-12 — the last time the Beach went to the NCAA Tournament. The 2015-16 season also marks the first time the team has opened the year 3-0 since the 1993-94 campaign.

 

Probable Starters

Guard – Senior Nick Faust

Guard – Sophomore Justin Bibbins

Guard/Forward – Junior Travis Hammonds

Forward – Freshman Mason Riggins

Forward – Senior A.J. Spencer

Last Time Out

Duke

No. 15 Duke had some extra time to keep figuring out how to play without its injured leader and big man. For one half, anyway, things couldn’t have gone much better for the Blue Devils.

Duke scored 70 points in the first half of its 105-66 rout of Elon on Monday night.

Freshman Brandon Ingram matched a season high with 26 points and added 11 rebounds while fellow freshman Luke Kennard had 18 points and Grayson Allen and Matt Jones had 17 apiece.

Scoring 70 in a half for just the third time in program history, the Blue Devils (10-2) shot 58 percent in the opening half and led by 30 points after just over 13 minutes. They reached 100 for the second time this season but fell seven points shy of a season high.

Still, it added up to an easy win in the first leg of a two-games-in-48-hours stretch before they start Atlantic Coast Conference play on Saturday at Boston College.

Tanner Samson had 17 points to lead Elon (9-4), which never led, shot 38 percent and had its six-game winning streak snapped.

Marshall Plumlee had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Derryck Thornton finished with 12 points for Duke.

The Blue Devils had nine days to digest their 77-75 overtime loss to Utah and to work on filling the void left by injured forward Amile Jefferson, who is out with indefinitely with a broken right foot. Jefferson was in a walking boot and on crutches after Krzyzewski said his hard cast was removed earlier Monday.

Allen, who managed just seven points on 3-of-18 shooting in the loss to Utah while playing with flu-like symptoms, was closer to full health in this one. Ingram was clicking, too, reaching the 20-point mark for the fourth time in five games, the exception being a 15-point game against Utah. Kennard, the bright spot of the Utah loss, picked up right where he left off at Madison Square Garden. The freshman, who had 24 in that game, hit three 3s in 3 minutes during the 33-6 run midway through the half that put Duke in total control. Jones hit a layup just before the buzzer for the 70th point.

Notables:

  • The only other 70-point halves in program history came in 1965 against Virginia (72) and in 1989 against Harvard (72)
  • Duke’s previous season high for scoring in a half was 59 points last month against Bryant, but the Blue Devils surpassed that in this one before the final media timeout of the first half
  • The Phoenix have not beaten a current member of the ACC since 2005, when they won at Clemson
    • They are 0-23 against Top 25 teams since moving to Division I, and are 0-2 against them this season, also falling at then-No. 24 Michigan last month

 

Long Beach State

Long Beach State had 36 points in the paint and outshot No. 8 Arizona 48.2 percent to 46.2 percent, but the Wildcats held off the Beach 85-70 Tuesday night.

Nick Faust led the 49ers with 17 points, while Justin Bibbins added 13 points with seven assists, but Arizona (12-1) had six players in double-figures, led by Allonzo Trier who scored 20 points and Ryan Anderson, who had a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.

Long Beach State (6-8) shot well on the day, making seven 3-pointers and dominating points in the paint, 36 to 22, but was undone by two factors; a big rebounding edge for Arizona, who finished with 40 rebounds as well as 28-for-32 night for the Wildcats at the free throw line. Arizona finished nearly double the free throws made than the Beach attempted on the night.

The Beach showed plenty of fight over the evening. Faust opened up the game with a pair of 3-pointers to spot the 49ers to a 6-0 lead. Arizona would pull that back, but Long Beach State again pushed out to a lead of four at 21-17 on a layup from Roschon Prince, who finished with 13 points and six rebounds.

Arizona was 15-of-16 from the line in the first half, and that helped the Wildcats take a 10-4 run to end the half to lead 44-34. The Wildcats then scored the first six points of the second half, forcing a Long Beach State timeout.

The Beach held strong however, as a Noah Blackwell 3-pointer and a Prince field goal capped a 7-1 run, and Long Beach State would be back within single-digits with 6:49 to play at 69-60. A three from Gabe York opened the lead back up to 16 at the five-minute mark, and Arizona went on to win the game by 15.

For Long Beach State, it was the closest game in six all-time meetings with Arizona, as well as the only time the Beach has held the Wildcats under 90 in the six games, all played in Tucson.

Notables:

  • NA

Head-to-Head

Duke has won both meetings between the two teams, both in Durham. Duke squeezed out a 79-78 win in the 1978-79 season under Tex Winter, while the teams have met once under Dan Monson, an 84-73 defeat in 2009.

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 Long Beach State. Of interest, are Scoring Margin (PPG), Effective FG%, 3PT FG&, APG, & TOPG. This game weighs heavily in favor of Duke terms of statistics.

 

Duke 2015-16 Regular Season Key Stats Comparison Long Beach State
87.8 (+18.4) PPG (Scoring Margin) 74.4 (-7)
69.3 Opponents PPG 75.1
53.9 Effective FG% 51.2
47.2 FG% 43.8
42.6 Opponent FG% 47.7
38.7 3PT FG% 39.1
34.7 Opponent 3PT FG% 38.9
41.7 (+7.4) RPG (Rebound Margin) 34.0 (-5.0)
                             34.2 Opponent RPG 39.0
71.1 FT% 65.0
13.0 APG 16.4
7.2 SPG (%) 7.3
9.7 (+3.3) Turnovers Per Game (Margin) 11.1 (+2.6)
12.8 Opponent TOPG 13.5
5.8 BPG 1.9

 

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, https://www.dukeblogger.com/four-factors-winning/.] [Please note that the graphical depiction is forthcoming.]

Duke has a decided edge in all of the four factors. When it comes to shooting the ball more efficiently, the Blue Devils have a slight edge over the Beach at 53.9% vs. 50.53%. Duke has a significant edge in handling the ball at 13.8% vs. 17.0% and another significant edge when it comes to getting to the free throw line, 43.8% vs. 40.4%. Finally, Duke has an overwhelming edge in offensive rebounding (40.3% vs. 28.1%)

Key Points to Consider

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

Duke

  • Difficulty defending dribble penetration
  • Makes the most of its possessions
  • Does not turn it over much
  • Commits few fouls

Long Beach State

  • Defensively challenged

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.

Soon the calendar switches to 2016 and we say goodbye to the bulk of non-conference play and get down to the nitty gritty of AAC play. And with this change, there will be room for further team adjustments to ensure Duke will have a shot to be a top tier team in the AAC, particularly with Amile Jefferson out for an indeterminate amount of time.

Following are a few things that Duke might consider doing in 2016, at least early on until more is known about the healing process of Amile’s foot. The team hopes to have Jefferson back at some point this season, but foot injuries can be tricky. We already know that the Blue Devils are going to be smaller and thinner without their heart and soul in the lineup. Each of these items may provide Duke that bit of edge that can help drive the Blue Devils through the early part of the ACC season.


Share the Ball

Duke has made 358 field goals in its first 12 games, but only 156 of those have come as the result of an assist. The team’s 42.9 percent assist rate is the 11th-worst among 351 Division I teams, and only Penn State shares the ball less among power-conference teams.

Despite having one of the country’s top-scoring offenses, sitting 15th at 87.8 points per game, the Blue Devils are getting most of their points despite much ball movement. Much of this has to do with Duke lacking a true point guard in the lineup, as freshman Derryck Thornton has only started four games.

Sophomore Grayson Allen is the team leader in assists, with 39, while also being Duke’s top scorer. Thornton started the December 19 overtime loss to Utah in New York City, but he had only four assists in 42 minutes.

Limit Fouls Committed While Defending

I have addressed this several times, but Duke’s depth issue also means having to resort to playing zone defense instead of Coach Krzyzewski’s traditional man-to-man approach. At times during the first two months of this season, the Blue Devils went to the zone when opponents were tearing apart the man-to-man, but now it will become the rule instead of the exception.

The zone will keep players from tiring as quickly, which is imperative when the rotation only includes six or seven players. However, in order for it to be fully effective, Duke has to guard without being called for fouls. The Blue Devils commit 17 fouls per game, with four foul-outs. Three of those were from senior center Marshall Plumlee.

Plumlee is the player Duke can least afford to lose because freshman Chase Jeter is the only replacement available unless you count moving Brandon Ingram to the four spot. Regardless, the frontcourt must play ‘light’.

Limited Contact Practice

One might think that such a concept is silly, but the foot injury that has sidelined senior forward Amile Jefferson means Duke is down to just seven players in its rotation. In addition, that is only if you include freshman Chase Jeter, who is playing less than nine minutes per game. Also, there is the what I call the ‘mystery’ surrounding Sean Obi’s playing time.

In addition, there are only two walk-on players and potential redshirt Justin Roberson who can provide ‘quality’ practice minutes for the 10 scholarship players to practice against.

With so little depth, particularly in the frontcourt, this puts the Blue Devils in the danger zone if another injury comes along. Jefferson got hurt during a practice, breaking his right foot while going after a loose ball in a hiatus practice on December 12.

That might be the last time any of Duke’s key player go full bore during practice, for fear of getting hurt. Injuries that happen during games are unavoidable, but with the thin lineup one might expect that the Blue Devils are steering clear of full-speed and full-contact practices.

Find Meaningful Minutes for Chase Jeter

Rated by 247Sports as the 15th-best player in the 2015 recruiting class, Chase Jeter may someday live up to that ranking. For now, he’s a long way away from being even close to a key contributor for Duke.

While I disagree, one reporter noted that Jeter “isn’t yet capable of playing and thinking with the speed and physicality high-major basketball requires,” which infers why he’s seen limited action in Duke’s biggest games. That might not be avoidable as the season progresses, especially if Jefferson’s foot injury keeps him out longer than the low-end prediction of a month (it will be more than a month).

The upcoming games against Elon and Long Beach State will be great for giving the 6’10” Jeter an opportunity to develop, games where he could be left on an island in hopes he’ll learn through live action. The same goes for the January 2 ACC opener at Boston College, as well as upcoming league tilts with Virginia Tech and Clemson.

By the time the meat of the ACC schedule comes around in mid-January, though, if Jeter isn’t ready to be a significant player, he won’t be one at all this season.

Endgame

The non-conference portion of the schedule had its ups and downs for No. 12 Duke, and the Blue Devils will try to close it out with a positive showing Wednesday against visiting Long Beach State. Duke rebounded from its overtime loss to Utah after eight days off and handily beat Elon on Monday, but will enter ACC play next week still without starting forward Amile Jefferson, who fractured his right foot during practice December 12 and is sidelined an indeterminate amount of time.

Grayson Allen was also still feeling the effects of the flu as of Monday and Duke’s leading scorer had lost eight or nine pounds, according to coach Mike Krzyzewski. It is a good thing the Blue Devils at least have depth at the guard/wing spots, led by Brandon Ingram, whom many believe will be a top three pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and has been filling in nicely at, ironically, the power forward after Jefferson’s injury.

Ingram, a 6-9 freshman, is averaging 15.8 points and 5.8 rebounds and is coming off a season-high 26 points and 11 rebounds against Elon. Long Beach State leading scorer Nick Faust played against Duke for three seasons while he was with Maryland and the Terrapins were still in the ACC, but only beat the Blue Devils once, in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament in 2013.

This is also the last game for the 49ers before the start of Big West Conference play and they’ll be trying to wrap up a tough three-game stretch with a victory. Long Beach State is coming off road losses to Oregon and No. 7 Arizona and the 49ers weren’t competitive in either game. A victory may require a monumental performance for Faust, who has played well at Duke, beginning with his first game at Cameron Indoor Stadium as a freshman, when he moved back into the starting lineup and finished with a team-high 15 points and eight rebounds.

Matt Jones has picked up some of Jefferson’s scoring void as well, producing at least 16 points in the each of the last three games. Luke Kennard is also averaging double figures in scoring (11.1) and Derryck Thornton isn’t far off (9.3), giving Long Beach State a lot to consider on defense. The Blue Devils can also wear away at their opponents’ depth via foul trouble, as they’ve scored nearly a quarter of their points from the foul line this season, making 48 more free throws than the opposition has attempted.

Notables:

  • Duke has the best winning percentage (.837) and second-most wins (195) in the NCAA since the start of the 2009-10 season
  • The Blue Devils have won an NCAA-best 124 consecutive non-conference home games
  • Eight players have scored in double figures for the 49ers this season

Long Beach State is a team that pushes the pace and can put the ball in the hoop. The 49ers have beaten BYU, and hung around with teams such as Oklahoma State, San Diego State and UCLA. However, Duke at Cameron Indoor is a whole different animal. I like the Blue Devils big, 90-77.