Game Preview: Duke Blue Devils vs. Temple Owls

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Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (3-0, 0-0] vs. Temple Owls (2-0, 0-0]

Coaches vs. Cancer Classic • Friday, November 21, 2014 • 9:30 PM • TruTV • Brooklyn, N.Y. • Barclays Center (17,732)

 

  1. Snapshot

Duke

Duke (3-0) travels to Brooklyn to face Temple (2-0) at the Barclays Center Friday, November 21 in the semifinals of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Tipoff is set for 9:30 p.m. with TruTV televising the contest. The Blue Devils are 6-2 all-time in Coaches vs. Cancer contests, including opening round wins at Cameron Indoor Stadium over Presbyterian (November 14) and Fairfield (November 15). Duke has won its last six games in the event, capturing the 2008 Coaches vs. Cancer title in the process. Duke is 50-10 (.833) in neutral site games this decade (start of 2009-10 season). Mike Krzyzewski has led Duke to an 80-16 (.833) record in in-season tournaments with 16 championships.

Duke is ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 3 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Blue Devils are 60-13 all-time when ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll. Temple enters the game unranked in both polls. Duke is playing its fourth game in an eight-day span to open the season.

The Blue Devils topped No. 19 Michigan State, 81-71, Tuesday in its last outing. Seven different Blue Devils have scored in double-figures this season with Quinn Cook, Jahlil Okafor, and Justise Winslow reaching double figures in all three contests. Duke has had a different leading scorer in each game. The Blue Devils have scored 80 or more points in each of their first three games, including back-to-back 100-point games to open the year. Duke topped the 80-point mark in the first six games of the 2013-14 season. Duke has shot over 50.0 percent from the field in all three games and currently ranks fourth in the NCAA with a .602 field goal percentage.

Temple

Known for scheduling tough opponents, Temple men’s basketball will travel to the Barclays Center Friday to take on the Duke Blue Devils in the Championship Rounds of the Northwestern Mutual Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. The game, televised live by TruTV will tip off at approximately 9:30 PM with the opening game between Stanford and UNLV commencing at 7:00 PM.

This will be the sixth meeting between Duke and Temple during Fran Dunphy’s nine seasons at the helm. Dunphy and Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski go way back as the two played together on a United States Army touring team in 1971.

Temple enters play after posting wins in its two host round games of the Classic, defeating American, 40-37, on November 14, and Louisiana Tech, 82-75, on November 17. Senior guard Will Cummings leads a balanced Cherry and White attack in scoring (13.5 PPG) and assists (4.0 APG) while redshirt sophomore forward Daniel Dingle (11.0 PPG), junior guard Quenton DeCosey (11.0 PPG) and sophomore guard Josh Brown (10.5 PPG) also average double figures. Sophomore forward Mark Williams (7.5 PPG) tops the Owls in rebounding, averaging 9.5 per game.

Duke leads the all-time series, 19-10, and has won 10 of the last 11 meetings. The Owls’ win in that span came on Jan. 4, 2012, a 78-73 upset of the No. 3 Blue Devils.

  1. Team Seasons Thus Far

Duke Blue Devils

In its last outing, Quinn Cook scored 19 points, but Jahlil Okafor controlled the post, finishing with 17 points and five rebounds to lead No. 4 Duke past No. 19 Michigan State 81-71. Against the defending Big Ten tournament champions, the 6-foot-11 Okafor, who is already considered a lottery pick, showed everyone he can post up, drive to the basket, spin away from defenders, back them down and draw fouls. He blocked two shots, had two steals, and finished 8-of-10 from the field. Okafor even wound up surviving foul trouble thanks to his teammates’ contributions. Cook, Justise Winslow, and Tyus Jones put the game away with a 13-3 run that extended Duke’s 51-48 lead to 64-51 with 7:58 left in the game. Michigan State never led, and Duke (3-0) has trailed for just 18 seconds this season.

Michigan State (1-1) was led by Branden Dawson with 18 points and nine rebounds. Travis Trice added 15 points, not nearly enough in the first game of one of the early season’s premier events. Duke looked at home on the Indiana Pacers’ home floor, making its first seven shots and pulling out to a 14-9 lead. The Blue Devils extended the margin to 27-17 with 8:51 left in the first half. The Spartans spent the rest of the night playing catch-up, finally getting as close as 51-48 with 13:54 left before Duke pulled away.

“I thought we handled it well,” coach Mike Krzyzewski of his team’s first big game this season. “They get loose balls and rebounds really well, and that’s the thing, for us to get better, we’re going to have to learn to do.”

Overall, Mike Krzyzewski has started three or more freshmen in a game 38 times at Duke, including all three games this season. Coach K started three or more freshmen 27 times during the 1982-83 season. Duke’s top-rated freshmen class, Grayson Allen, Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, and Justise Winslow, combines to average 54.4 points per game while shooting an efficient 64.9 percent (61-of-94) from the field. Duke is shooting 60.2 percent (109-of-181) from the field as a team through three games with eight Blue Devils shooting over 55.0 percent. Okafor leads the way and is tied for 16th nationally at 83.3 percent (25-of-30).

The Blue Devils have converted 48 opponent turnovers into 94 points in the first three games of the year, averaging 1.96 points per possession following an opponent’s turnover. Duke is shooting an ACC-best 47.8 percent from three-point range and averaging 10.7 made threes per game. Cook has paced the long-range attack with 10 three-point field goals and a .556 three-point field goal percentage. Duke’s starting backcourt, Cook and Jones, combined for 36 points, 10 assists (with no turnovers) and three steals in the win over No. 18 Michigan State. The guard tandem is averaging 29.4 points and 10.3 assists per game, while shooting 62.0 percent (31-of-50) from the field and 53.6 percent (15-of-28) from three-point range on the year. Okafor (17.7 PPG – 9th) and Winslow (16.0 PPG – T-15th) are the only two freshmen ranked in the top 20 of the ACC in scoring.

The Blue Devils have trailed for just 18 seconds through the first three games of the season. Duke trailed Fairfield 2-0 before hitting a three-point field goal on the following possession to take the lead. The Blue Devils led wire-to-wire in wins over Presbyterian and Michigan State. Cook has a 15.0:1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season and is Duke’s career record holder in that category with a 2.70:1 mark in 107 career games. Jones and Okafor were two of the seven freshmen named to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50. Duke and Kansas are the only two schools to have more than one freshman named to the preseason top-50 list.

Duke has played 10 or more players in each of its first three games with all 10 recruited scholarship players averaging at least 10 minutes per game. Cook is leading the team in minutes played at 29.3 mpg. Duke leads the ACC in scoring (101.0 PPG), scoring margin (+43.0), field goal percentage (.602), three-point percentage (.478), assists (22.3 APG) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.31:1). Duke is the only NCAA Division I team to score 100-or-more points in a game twice this season. The Blue Devils lead the NCAA in scoring (101.0 PPG), points per possession (1.47 PPP), offensive efficiency (147.1), and true shooting percentage (.707). Amile Jefferson ranks 10th in the ACC in rebounding (7.7 RPG) and seventh in offensive rebounds at 3.67 ORPG. Duke has won three straight and is 54-16 all-time against teams currently in the American Athletic Conference. The Blue Devils are also scheduled to face Connecticut out of the American this season.

Temple

In its last outing, led by 20 points from Will Cummings and Quenton DeCosey as well as a career-high 17 points from Josh Brown, Temple used a big second half to come away with an 82-73 win against visiting Louisiana Tech on November 17 at the Liacouras Center.

Brown truly had a career night for Temple, stepping up and taking control in the second half despite a combined five all-conference guards on the floor for both teams. He scored 10 points in a row for the Owls during a key run in the second half, hitting 5-of-7 from the floor in the second period. Cummings scored 13 of his 20 points at the free throw line and tied his career high with nine boards. Brown tied his career high on the glass as well with seven rebounds, and Mark Williams pulled down a game and career-high 10 boards for the Owls.

Raheem Appleby led LA Tech with a game-high 26 points including four buckets from long range. The Owls only held brief one-point leads in the first half, but battled back from as much as a 12-point deficit to come within four at halftime, 38-34. Temple started the second half on a 10-0 run and never allowed the Bulldogs to come within fewer than four the rest of the way.

The final minute of the contest featured a combined 20 points as LA Tech’s comeback attempt included two treys and sent Temple to the line for 14 total shots. Six quick points for LA Tech cut the Owls’ lead to four near the 10-minute mark, but a 14-5 Temple run over the next six minutes put the margin at 11 with four minutes remaining. The Bulldogs hit some shots from behind the arc to come within seven in the final minute, but the Owls made enough buckets from the stripe to hold them off.

Overall, Temple University men’s basketball team is looking to bounce back following a tough 2013-14 season that saw the Owls’ NCAA Tournament streak of six straight postseason appearances halted with an uncharacteristic 9-22 campaign. Optimism abounds for this year’s Cherry and White as ninth year head coach Fran Dunphy returns all but two players from last season’s young team. Three Philly-native transfers and a freshman forward that has the potential to make an immediate impact also join the fold in 2014-15.

Senior Will Cummings and junior Quenton DeCosey make up arguably one of the most prolific backcourt tandems in the tough American Athletic Conference. Coming off his best season to date, Cummings averaged 16.8 points and 4.6 assists per game to rank sixth and fourth, respectively, in the conference. He also averaged 1.5 steals per game, good for ninth in the league, and played 34.4 minutes per contest as the heart and soul of the squad. DeCosey, who had one of the nation’s Top 10 breakout years in terms of scoring, increased his average output by 13.5 points per contest from his freshman year, placing third on the squad and eighth in the conference at 15.8 points per game. He tallied in double figures 27 times, draining 58 threes along the way, while playing 36.4 minutes per game that was good for second in The American.

After this tandem, Dunphy has 10 hungry players vying for a starting slot and time on the court that will make for a very competitive atmosphere in practice. “This is one of the most competitive atmospheres I have been around,” states the Owls’ mentor, who is heading into his 26th season as a head coach in Philadelphia. “It will help not only make our players get tougher, but the team stronger on the court.” Junior Jaylen Bond is likely to find his way into the Temple frontcourt after sitting out last season. The Texas transfer, who prepped at nearby Plymouth-Whitemarsh High, is a huge presence in the paint at 6-8, 240, and should easily increase his output from his Longhorn days. In his last season at Texas, as a sophomore in 2012-13, he averaged 2.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game in an injury-plagued campaign. Two other transfers, senior Jesse Morgan and junior Devin Coleman, also will vie for time. A graduate of Philadelphia’s Olney High, Morgan has one semester of eligibility remaining at the time of publication. He was a prolific scorer at UMass, where he averaged 13.4 points per game before succumbing to injury as a junior in 2012-13. Coleman, a hard-nosed player who prepped at Friends’ Central High, averaged 5.4 points per game for Clemson before transferring in January 2014. He will be eligible following the fall semester.

Sophomore Daniel Dingle, who was able to redshirt last season after a knee injury sidelined him in December, will also be in the mix. The 6-7, 235-pound swingman was having a breakout season, averaging 6.7 points as the team’s top reserve prior to tearing his meniscus. Junior Devontae Watson, sophomore Mark Williams, and graduate student Jimmy McDonnell all saw time in the starting frontcourt last season with each bringing a different element to the 2014-15 team. Watson, who made 17 starts, led the Owls with 34 blocks while averaging 2.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. The 6-11 forward/center recorded his first of hopefully many double-doubles with 11 points and 11 rebounds at Houston. A 6-8, 240-pound forward, Williams is a battler underneath and played his best basketball at the end of the season. He scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a win over #23 SMU, and averaged 7.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in four late-season starts. The American Athletic Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year, McDonnell had a breakout season, playing in 24 games with six starts. The 6-11 forward averaged 1.8 points while displaying his strong perimeter shooting with a 42.9 percent accuracy from three-point range.

Sophomore Josh Brown, perhaps the team’s most tenacious perimeter defender, should see more time this season while senior swingman Nick Pendergast will also push for more time on the floor. The product of St. Anthony’s High, Brown averaged 21.2 minutes per contest, the most by any reserve on the squad. His 51 assists and 27 steals ranked fourth on the team. Pendergast, who hails from Bridgeport, Conn. (Kent School), is one of the hardest workers on the squad and one of only two four-year players on the team. Great things are expected of the team’s lone freshman, Obi Enechionyia. The two-time Herald-Mail Player of the Year averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks as a senior at St. James (Md.) High and has the tools to make a significant impact in his initial season.

Once again, Temple plays a formidable schedule. Playing 18 games in one of the toughest conferences in the nation, The American highlights the slate. Temple will take on defending NCAA champion UConn twice along with NCAA qualifiers Cincinnati and Memphis, as well as NIT Finalist SMU. The non-conference part of the schedule is equally as challenging as the Owls host Kansas at the Wells Fargo Center and take on the Duke and either UNLV or Stanford as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at the Barclays Center.

  1. Head-to-Head

Temple and Duke are meeting for the 30th time, with the series favoring Duke, 19-10. In the 2011-12 season, the Owls snapped a nine-game losing streak in the series with a 78-73 upset of the No. 3 Blue Devils at the Wells Fargo Center (Jan. 4, 2012). The most recent meeting was won by No. 2 Duke by a score of 90-67 at the Izod Center on Dec. 8, 2012. Prior to the 2012 win, the last Temple victory in the series came on January 25, 1996 at the CoreStates Spectrum, 59-58.

[Comparative statistics will start being displayed and discussed after Duke has played five games.]

 

  1. Four Factors to Winning
[Will be displayed after Duke has played five games.]

 

  1. Key Points to Consider
[Note: I am choosing to leave these points as is from the Michigan State game as I still think they are valid and are evolving.]

A few points to consider from Duke’s perspective:

  • Get off to a fast start – run hard on both ends of the court
  • Rebounding – Prove to the nation that this team can rebound well against an established team
  • Establish Okafor in post – he must dominate down low, particularly on the defensive end
  • Push the tempo – push the ball on both offensive and defensive ends of the court
  • Hit open three’s – Michigan State will be double- and triple-teaming Okafor, which should help the in-and-out game
  1. Endgame

Duke rolls into Brooklyn on the back of two huge Classic preliminary wins over Presbyterian and Fairfield and a convincing victory over Michigan State at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. The 113-44 thrashing of Presbyterian and the 109-59 win over Fairfield, in fact, featured the two highest point totals in Classic history.

Temple has demonstrated the ability to win in both a defensive struggle, 40-37 over American, and a higher-scoring duel, beating Louisiana Tech 82-75. The Owls knocked off American despite shooting a sickly 22.9 percent from the floor.

It is unlikely that anyone’s defense can contain Duke well enough to win with shooting so poor. Six Blue Devils are averaging at least eight points per game through their first three outings. Point guards Jones and Cook are each averaging at least five assists per game while shooting a combined 62 percent from the floor. Perhaps most importantly, they have committed only four turnovers between them.

The guards are mere setup men, however, for the closer, freshman center Jahlil Okafor. Okafor has missed only five of his 30 shots so far, even sinking eight of 10 against Michigan State. He leads the team with 17.7 points per game and ranks second with 6.7 rebounds per game.

As a team, Duke is shooting 60.2 percent from the floor this season. Temple’s opponents are shooting 36.8 percent so far, but the Owls are making only 33.3 percent. Louisiana Tech helped bail Temple out by shooting only 38.9 percent (7-of-18) from the foul line in the second half, leaving several more attempts on the table by missing one-and-one front ends.

Temple guard Will Cummings has scored 18 of his 27 points from the stripe in the early going. His 75 percent foul shooting helps make up for his weak 15.4 percent work from the floor (4-of-26). Cummings and backcourt mate Quenton DeCosey (36.8 percent) must shoot efficiently if Temple stands any chance of pulling the upset over the Blue Devils.

The Owls have only four bodies 6’8″ or taller to throw at Okafor, five if Texas transfer Jaylen Bond can finally make his debut after missing the first two games with an ankle injury. Okafor is only 3-of-7 from the foul line, and a deeper team would be able to push him around and make him earn his points via free throws.

In the end, Duke should have too much firepower for Temple to stay competitive. The Owls surrendered 9-of-26 shooting from long range to Louisiana Tech, which is a solid shooting team but no match for the Blue Devils’ talent level. Even if Temple can slow Okafor, gunners like Cook, Jones, Justise Winslow, Grayson Allen, Matt Jones, and Rasheed Sulaimon represent too much perimeter ability.

 

 

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