Long Beach St.-Duke Preview
Many touted Brandon Ingram as the latest one-and-done player for Duke long before he arrived on campus, and he's showing why after a slow start to his likely brief college career.
He'll look to feast on another seemingly overmatched opponent as the 15th-ranked Blue Devils host Long Beach State on Wednesday night.
Ingram averaged 10.9 points, shot 38.8 percent from the field and was 6 of 25 from 3-point range over his first seven games, a stretch that included coach Mike Krzyzewski taking him out of the starting lineup for two games.
The 6-foot-9 swingman has come on strong lately, though, shooting 58.7 percent from the floor – including 13 of 26 on 3-pointers – and averaging 22.8 points over his last five. Ingram has four 20-point games in that span, including a season-high 26 in Monday's 105-66 rout of Elon.
Singling out his worst performance this month wouldn't be fair. Ingram went 6 of 16 from the field and scored 15 points in a 77-75 overtime loss to now-No. 21 Utah on Dec. 19, when Duke (10-2) shot a season-low 29.9 percent.
The Blue Devils bounced back in a big way Monday, scoring 70 points in the first half – the first time they've done that since 1989 – and drilling 12 3-pointers. Freshman Luke Kennard had four while scoring 18 points, and Grayson Allen and Matt Jones added 17 apiece.
Allen appeared to be recovered from flu-like symptoms that contributed to him shooting 3 of 18 in the loss to Utah. He had five of Duke's 17 assists that tied their second-most of the season.
''You kind of saw exactly what we're trying to do with spacing the floor, and driving and kicking,'' Allen said. ''When we click like that and we move the ball around like that, it's very dangerous offensively.''
The Blue Devils played their third game without starting forward Amile Jefferson, who suffered a right foot fracture Dec. 12. He was seen in a walking boot Monday in place of a hard cast, but he's expected to miss at least another couple of weeks.
Not having Jefferson for the start of ACC play won't be ideal, especially because the Blue Devils open with road games against Boston College on Saturday and Wake Forest on Jan. 6.
Seven-footer Marshall Plumlee has been playing well down low, however, and finished with 10 points and a season high-tying 11 rebounds against Elon. He could have another big game against Long Beach State, which doesn't have a starter taller than 6-foot-8.
The 49ers (6-8) of the Big West are playing their third straight road game against a major-conference team after losing by 19 at Oregon on Dec. 18 and falling 85-70 at then-No. 8 Arizona last Tuesday.
''This is the ultimate test,'' said coach Dan Monson, who has made a routine of scheduling games against tough competition for years. ''For us, this is truly a preseason game and we are just trying to get better. To do that, it helps to be in this sort of environment.”
Nick Faust scored 17 points last Tuesday and is averaging a team-high 16.1. The senior transfer from Maryland has faced Duke six times – three at Cameron Indoor Stadium – averaging 9.2 points while shooting 38.5 percent.
This will be the first meeting between the schools since Duke's 21-point victory in 2009.