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Game Preview: Duke Blue Devils vs. Army Black Knights

By November 29, 2014No Comments

Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (6-0, 0-0] vs. Army Black Knights (5-0, 0-0]

Sunday, November 30. 2014 • 12:00 PM • ESPNU • Durham, NC • Cameron Indoor Stadium (9,314)

By Randy Dunson

1. Snapshot


Duke (6-0) hosts Army (5-0) Sunday, November 30 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in a battle between undefeated teams. Tipoff is set for 12:02 p.m. with ESPNU televising the contest. Mike Krzyzewski is facing his alma mater for the sixth time in his career. Krzyzewski led Army to three NIT appearances as a player and compiled a 73-59 record as head coach at Army from 1976-80.

The Blue Devils are ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Duke is 63-13 all-time when ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll. Army enters the game unranked in both polls. The Blue Devils have won an NCAA-best 112 straight non-conference home games, more than twice as many as the next closest school (Syracuse – 53). Duke owns the longest active home win streak in the NCAA at 36 games. The 36-game streak is the fourth-best mark in school history and ACC history. NC State won 36 straight home games from 1972-75, while Duke matched that feat from 1991-93.
Duke has featured a balanced scoring attack with seven players averaging at least 7.5 points per game. The Blue Devils have had 25 double figure scoring games. Eight different Blue Devils have scored in double-figures this season with Quinn Cook and Jahlil Okafor reaching double figures in all six contests. Duke is coming off a 93-54 win over Furman Wednesday, November 26. The Blue Devils dominated the interior finishing with a +36 margin on points in the paint (54-18). The Blue Devils shot 57.6 percent (38-of-66) from the field marking the third time in three games at home that Duke has shot 57.0 percent or better from the field.


Army takes on its first ranked opponent in head coach Zach Spiker’s tenure and looks for its sixth consecutive win to open the 2014-15 season when it challenges No. 4 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Sunday at noon.

The Black Knights enter the game after posting their largest victory of the season, an 80-54 defeat of Binghamton on November 25. Junior guard/forward Kyle Wilson was the lone Army player to score in double figures as he matched his season high with 25 points. Eight different Army players contributed at least five points in the team’s largest victory since beating Rosemont 90-48 on December 22, 2012.

Army is 5-0 to start the season for the first time since the 1976-77 campaign under Mike Krzyzewski. The five-game winning streak matches the longest stretch of consecutive wins under Spiker.

Army has never played an opponent ranked in the AP Top-25 Poll in Zach Spiker’s six seasons at West Point. The last time the Black Knights played a ranked opponent was December 21, 2006, when they fell to No. 20 Notre Dame 88-47. The last time Army met a top-five team was November 29, 2005 when it lost to No. 3 Connecticut 68-54.

Wilson’s 25-point effort gave him 1,080 points for his career and moved him into 24th all-time in Academy history ahead of Darryle Kouns (1,067) and Derrick Canada (1,071). Wilson is averaging 21.4 points per game, which leads the Patriot League and ranks 16th in the nation through all games played November 27.

The Black Knights have used the same starting lineup in all four games this season with junior guard Dylan Cox, Wilson, junior forward Tanner Plomb, junior forward Larry Toomey, and junior center Kevin Ferguson on the floor first. Army enters the weekend as one of 24 Division I teams with at least five victories and no losses.

Army received 41 votes in the Men’s Mid-Major Top-25 Poll. The poll is announced each Monday.


2. Team Seasons Thus Far

Duke Blue Devils

In its last outing, senior center Jahlil Okafor had a season-high 24 points and junior forward Amile Jefferson added 16 with 12 rebounds in No. 4 Duke’s 93-54 rout of Furman on Wednesday night.

The Blue Devils (6-0) had little trouble remaining unbeaten, shooting 58 percent while holding the Paladins to 34 percent from the floor.

Kendrec Ferrara had 13 points and Stephen Croone added 12 for Furman (1-3). The Paladins have only one player taller than 6-8 on the roster, Ferrara, who is 6-9, and that made defending Okafor a tough job. Duke outscored Furman 54-18 in the paint and held a 40-27 rebounding advantage. The Paladins made just 34 percent of their shots from 2-point range.

Okafor finished 12 of 14 and has made 29 of his 34 shots in three games at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Sophomore guard Matt Jones had 13 points and senior guard Quinn Cook added 11 for the Blue Devils, who were coming off a five-day stretch in which they earned three straight double-figure wins against name-brand programs on neutral courts. Back at cozy Cameron, they had not been tested, or even held under 100 points, in their first two home games.

Duke had a double-figure lead before the Paladins hit their first field goal, and then used a 22-7 run to push its lead into the 20s for good. Jefferson scored 12 points during the half and both started and finished that spurt with buckets near the rim. Okafor had 10 during the half, which ended on freshman guard Grayson Allen’s three that made it 50-22 at the break, and it got no more competitive in the final 20 minutes.

”That’s the way to respond, coming off five games in eight days,” Jefferson said. ”Our team showed great maturity coming back to Cameron, creating energy and getting the crowd into it.”

Overall, senior guard Quinn Cook has scored in double figures and made at least three three-point field goals in all six contests this season. He leads the ACC in three-point field goals (3.3 3PG), while also ranking among the conference leaders in scoring (16.0 PPG – T-10th), three-point percentage (.455 – 9th), assists (4.3 APG – 9th) and assist-to-turnover ratio (5.20:1 – 3rd).

Coach K has started three or more freshmen in a game 41 times at Duke, including all six games this season. Coach K started three or more freshmen 27 times during the 1982-83 season. Duke’s top-rated freshmen class, guards Grayson Allen and Tyus Jones, center Jahlil Okafor, and forward Justise Winslow – combine to average 46.5 points per game while shooting an efficient 52.7 percent (98-of-186) from the field. The group has combined for 14 of Duke’s 25 double figure scoring games this season.

The Blue Devils have trailed for just 29 seconds through the first six games of the season. Duke trailed Fairfield, 2-0, for 18 seconds and Stanford, 2-0, for 11 seconds. Duke has won each of the first six games by 10 or more points, marking the first time since the 2010-11 season it has accomplished that feat. The Blue Devils have not opened a season with seven double-figure wins since the 2002-03 campaign. Duke has made 41 more three-point field goals than its opposition on the year. The Blue Devils are 59-of-144 (.410), while holding the opposition to just 18-of-90 (.200) shooting from behind the arc. Cook has more three-point field goals (20) than Duke has allowed (18) on the year. Duke is averaging 25.5 points per game off opponent turnovers. The Blue Devils have scored 20-or-more points off turnovers in five of their six games.

Okafor scored a season-high 24 points on 12-of-14 shooting in the win over Furman. He made his final 12 shots of the contest, is second in the ACC in field goal percentage (.649), and tied for fourth in scoring (17.2 PPG). Amile Jefferson continues to be active on the glass, averaging a team-high 8.3 rebounds per game (T-9th in the ACC). He has collected 24 of his 50 rebounds on the offensive end of the floor and is tied for third in the league in offensive rebounds (4.0 ORPG). Duke’s backcourt tandem of Cook and Jones has combined for 58 assists with just 12 turnovers (4.83:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) through six games. Both players rank in the top 10 of the ACC in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. Sophomore guard Matt Jones is averaging 7.8 points per game, while shooting 58.8 percent (10-of-17) from three-point range. Winslow has done a little bit of everything for the Blue Devils ranking in the top three on the team in scoring (14.0 PPG – 3rd), rebounds (5.2 RPG – 3rd), offensive rebounds (9 – 3rd), assists (13 – 3rd), blocks (4 – T-2nd), steals (6 – 3rd), field goals (26 – 3rd), three-point field goals (8 – 3rd) and free throws (24 – 1st).


In its last outing, the Army men’s basketball team built a 15-point halftime lead and cruised to a 80-54 victory over Binghamton on Tuesday evening at Christl Arena. Kyle Wilson led all scorers with 25 points on the strength of a 9-of-15 shooting performance as the Black Knights improved to 5-0 on the season. Binghamton fell to 1-5 with the loss. Wilson was Army’s lone scorer in double figures, while sophomore forward Tanner Omlid and junior forward Tanner Plomb added nine and eight points, respectively. Willie Rodriguez was the top scorer for Binghamton as he finished with 20 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Army’s defense forced Binghamton into 12 first-half turnovers and the Black Knights took a 38-23 lead into the halftime break. The 15-point cushion was Army’s largest of the young season. Wilson put in 14 of his 25 points and Omlid had nine in the period. Binghamton pulled within 12 two minutes into the second half on Dusan Perovic’s triple that made it 41-29, before the Black Knights ripped off a 13-2 spurt to put them ahead 54-31. Plomb’s three-point play started the run, Wilson connected from deep and freshman forward Luke Morrison converted a four-point play for Army. The Black Knights led by as many as 28 points before coming away with the eventual 26-point triumph.
Army’s latest win over Binghamton marks its first 5-0 start since the 1976-77 campaign. That year, Army started 7-0 under second-year head coach Mike Krzyzewski when the team was captained by Army Sports Hall of Famer Gary Winton. It is the first time Army has opened the season with five straight wins versus current Division I opponents since 1939. The team was directed to a 5-0 start by head coach Leo Novak with wins over Brown, Maryland, Columbia, Cornell and Lafayette. Zach Spiker earned his 73rd career victory, which ties him with Mike Krzyzewski for fourth in Academy history. Army won its fourth straight game over Binghamton and the team improved to 4-0 against the Bearcats under Spiker. Army remains the only Patriot League teams without a loss. Army improved to 24-3 under Spiker when leading by double-digits at halftime.

Overall, The Black Knights posted a 15-16 record last season, including a 10-8 mark in Patriot League play. Army’s 10 Patriot League victories set a new program record and the team also recorded back-to-back winning seasons in Patriot League play for the first time ever.

Army returns its top five scorers from last season, including the Preseason Patriot League Player of the Year, Kyle Wilson, who led the conference in scoring with 18.4 points per game as a sophomore.

Army was chosen second in the 2014-15 Patriot League Preseason Poll. It was the highest preseason selection for the Black Knights in program history. The Black Knights have not finished higher than fourth in the Patriot League standings since joining the conference in 1990. Army finished fifth and beat fourth-place finisher Bucknell on the road, 72-71, to advance to the semifinals for the second straight season.

Army’s chances for success increases dramatically when scoring at least 70 points. The Black Knights own a record of 60-31 in the last 91 games when scoring at least 70 points. Army is 195-40 (.829) all-time when scoring at least 80 in a game. The Black Knights are 81-57 in their last 138 games when reaching the 60-point mark. Conversely, Army has won just 14 of its last 72 games when not scoring at least 60 points (14-58). Army has dropped 15 straight when scoring less than 50 points. The Black Knights have lost 116 of their last 117 games when failing to reach the 50-point mark. Army has scored at least 2,000 points in four of the last five seasons. In the 107 seasons prior to head coach Zach Spiker’s arrival, the Black Knights scored 2,000-or-more points six times.

Army allowed 51 points in its home win versus Lehigh. It was the Black Knights’ best defensive performance against a Division I team last season. Dating back to 2008-09, Army has posted a 39-13 record when allowing foes less 62 points or less. The Black Knights are 19-73 in their last 92 games when giving up at least 70 points. The Black Knights have lost 42 of their last 49 games when allowing 80-or-more points. Last season, Army allowed 66.9 points per game in its 15 victories and 79.1 points per game in its 16 losses.

The Black Knights are 44-10 since the start of the 2004-05 season when making at least half their shots.

Since the start of the 2004-05 season, Army is 102-79 when shooting at least 40 percent from the floor and 17-101 when shooting below 40 percent. Army has lost 24 straight games when shooting 33.3 percent or worse. Army is 72-14 in its last 86 games when out-shooting its opponent.

3. Head-to-Head

Duke leads the all-time series with Army 9-3, including a 4-0 mark in Durham, N.C. The history between the two squads dates back to the 1932 season. Sunday’s meeting is the first since the 2002-03 season opener when Duke beat Army 101-53 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The two teams played seven times from 1932-39, but did not meet again until the 1996 season when the series resumed with five meetings over a seven-year stretch.

In terms of a few key offensive and defensive statistical parameters, Duke predominates in most, which gives the Blue Devils a significant statistical edge head-to-head.


Army 81.2 52.3 46.7 36/107 1.07 38.8 9.2
Duke 90.0 60.9 52.9 59/144 2.2 39.0 8.8


4. Four Factors to Winning

Although the opponents each team has faced to date vary considerably, they are remarkably similar when looking at each of the four factors, except for one. Duke has the advantage in all four.

Duke holds a commanding edge in eFG%, 60.9% to 52.3%. In terms of handling the ball, the Blue Devils have the edge in TO% (13.6% vs. 19.3%). They also have the edge, but to a lesser extent, in offensive rebounding (40.1% vs. 38.0%) and in getting to the free throw line (36.8% vs. 33.0%).



5. Key Points to Consider

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


  • Up tempo offensive
  • Scoring comes primarily from two players (Kyle Wilson & Tanner Plomb)
  • Highly efficient attack
  • Stingy defense


  • Highly efficient attack
  • Stingy defense
  • Does not send teams to the line often

Now, a few key points to consider from Duke’s perspective. These may often carry over to future games but keys specific to a current opponent will always be mentioned.

  • Fast start – Duke needs to jump out of the blocks quickly as this Army team is not to be overlooked; we can start thinking about the daunting affair with Wisconsin after this game is over
  • Forcing turnovers = points – The Blue Devils have done well seemingly year after year is make opponents pay for mistakes; a key result in the Furman game was that they turned Furman’s 14 turnovers into 26 points; this said, Army has been highly proficient in this area as well
  • Bench production – Another area for continued concern; a player cracks the rotation by producing on the court; while maybe not a major factor with Army, it needs attention (see Endgame)
  • X-factor – Tyus Jones continues to be an enigma over the last few games (see Endgame)

6. Endgame

The fourth-ranked Blue Devils host Army on Sunday with the Black Knights looking for their first 6-0 start since 1976-77 under Krzyzewski.

Army has knocked off Air Force, VMI, St. Francis (NY), Marist and, most recently, Binghamton on Tuesday 80-54, which marked its largest margin of victory since December 22, 2012. The Black Knights’ winning streak is the longest under coach Zach Spiker, who would move past Krzyzewski on the Army all-time wins list with a victory Sunday.

Krzyzewski won 73 games as head coach at Army from 1975-1980 before departing for Duke, where he has 916 victories. That level of success has carried full force into this season for the Blue Devils (6-0).

Freshmen Jahlil Okafor (17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game) and Justise Winslow (14.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG) are off to good starts to their careers, with senior Quinn Cook (16.0 PPG, 4.3 APG) directing the potent offense. The Blue Devils’ 90.0-point average is among the nation’s five best, and their 33.2-point average differential is third.

Perhaps Duke’s only concern is the shooting of freshman guard Tyus Jones, who has scored just eight points over his last three games despite averaging 26 minutes. Jones has contributed 5.3 assists per contest this season, but is 1 for 15 from the floor in the last three. Jones, though, has been making an impact defensively with a team-high 11 steals

Another area that all eyes are on is bench production. The bottom line is to crack the Duke rotation you have to produce when you are on the court. In the Furman game, ten Blue Devils saw double-digit minutes, which is big for this particular team that is still trying to develop its depth. At the beginning of the season, Duke was subbing 5-for-5 and not experiencing much drop-off. That changed when Duke started facing good teams last week, as Duke’s bench averaged just 48.5 minutes between the five players, or less than 10 minutes each (meaning the starters played over 150 between them, nearly 130). Then only three of the five played at all against Stanford. The second five weren’t all that productive in the first two games against Michigan State and Temple, shooting 6-of-21 from the field and scoring 20 points in 97 minutes. Therefore, the rotation was cut down yet again for the Stanford game, with only Marshall Plumlee, Rasheed Sulaimon and Matt Jones seeing any action at all off the bench. Neither sophomore Semi Ojeleye nor freshman Grayson Allen played at all. This Duke team has the potential to be deeper than any Krzyzewski has had in recent memory. However, when he puts the bench guys in, they have to produce. Duke players know that. It’s really not rocket science, although it can seem that way at times to some of the younger ones who are used to playing no matter what.

The Blue Devils now face an Army team that has prospered behind the production of juniors Kyle Wilson and Tanner Plomb, who have combined for 37.8 points per game. The Black Knights, though, have been winning largely thanks to a disruptive defense that’s forcing an average of 18.4 turnovers – among the top 15 in the nation.

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