Durham, NC (Sports Network) - The Duke Blue Devils will attempt to continue
their reign as the nation's top-ranked team on Thursday night when they host
the Elon Phoenix at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Following a 74-59 loss to Butler in its season opener, Elon ripped off four
straight wins, highlighted by a road victory over South Carolina, 65-53. The
Phoenix have since fallen back to 6-4 by losing three of their last five. They
participated in the Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase last Saturday against UMass,
but after forcing overtime with a 3-pointer in the waning seconds of
regulation, they fell in overtime, 78-73.
Not only are the Blue Devils off to a fantastic 10-0 start to the season, but
they have proven their greatness by toppling some of the best teams in the
country, whether it be Kentucky on Nov. 13 (75-68) or Louisville in the Battle
4 Atlantis championship game (76-71), or Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten
Challenge (76-71). Duke stepped aside from its rigorous early-season schedule
to play a much easier opponent on Wednesday night, taking care of visiting
Cornell in an 88-47 final. It was the 99th straight non-conference win at home
for Duke, with the last loss in such a game coming against St. John's in 2000.
Duke has a handle on the all-time series with Elon, 17-7, which includes a
98-72 triumph in the last meeting in December of 2010.
The Phoenix fought tooth and nail against UMass, and had it been able to shoot
greater than 29.9 percent from the field (including 8-of-35 from 3-point
range), they probably could have pulled off the win. Jack Isenbarger led the
way with 22 points, but that was mostly a product of his high volume of field
goal attempts (6-of-20). He also added six rebounds, five assists, and three
steals. Lucas Troutman recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10
rebounds, and Sebastian Koch narrowly missed one with 15 points and nine
boards. Elon hasn't been particularly efficient with its field goal attempts
this season (.393), but it's able to hold on to a plus-6.4 scoring margin by
playing tight defense (.391 FG percentage allowed). Isenbarger (14.7 ppg)
makes his shots at just a 35.4 percent clip, but he's able to offset that
somewhat by shooting 84.8 percent from the foul line. Troutman (14.6 ppg) has
been great in the paint with 6.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg and 1.6 spg.
Duke's 41-point victory over Cornell was its most dominant win of the season,
and most of the onslaught came in the second half where it outscored the Big
Red by a 47-17 margin. The Blue Devils shot a lofty 56.7 percent from the
field and won the turnover battle by an astounding 26-10 margin. Seth Curry
was fantastic, shooting 7-of-10 from the floor for 20 points, while Mason
Plumlee was perhaps even better, making all eight of his field goal attempts
for 18 points, adding nine rebounds and three blocks as well. Rasheed Sulaimon
chipped in 16 points and three steals. Without question, Plumlee has been one
of the nation's elite players this season, as he's shooting greater than 61
percent from the floor for 18.9 ppg. He's more than just a scorer, adding 11.1
rpg and nearly two blocks per contest. Seth Curry (16.5 ppg) is also an
outstanding scorer, making more than 40 percent of his 3-pointers and better
than 90 percent of his free throws. Rounding out perhaps the best starting
lineup in the country is Sulaimon (13.4 ppg), Ryan Kelly (11.8 ppg) and Quinn
Cook (10.4 ppg).
The Sports Network