Gardner-Webb-Duke Preview

BY foxsports • December 17, 2009

After a 10-day break for final exams, Duke should have an easy chance to shake off any rust at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The seventh-ranked Blue Devils go for their 74th consecutive non-conference home win Tuesday night as they face Gardner-Webb for the first time.

Duke (7-1) has been perfect in Durham during its strong start, with the team's only loss coming at Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 2.

The Blue Devils bounced back from that defeat by extending their NCAA-record home streak outside of conference play with an 80-71 victory over St. John's on Dec. 5.

After coach Mike Krzyzewski's team nearly squandered a 16-point halftime lead and junior forward Kyle Singler stumbled through a 3-for-15 start from the field, Singler buried his final three shots including a key 3-pointer that helped Duke finish off the Red Storm.

"That's like the guy who strikes out three times and pops up. In the bottom of the eighth, (with runners on) second and third, he gets a double," Krzyzewski said. "We have a lot of developing to do as a basketball team, but I like the fact that we step up in tough situations."

Krzyzewski may not have been thrilled with his team's performance defensively. Duke allowed the Red Storm to shoot 50.9 percent from the field.

The Blue Devils did continue to post strong numbers on the glass, grabbing 17 offensive boards and outrebounding St. John's 41-31. Duke is averaging 10.6 more rebounds than its visitors in Durham.

Singler and Nolan Smith have led a balanced scoring attack, with each player averaging more than 17.0 points. Singler said his faith in Duke's frontcourt helps him worry less about tough shooting nights.

"We're going to miss shots, but we don't really want to focus too much on that, just because we know we've got guys that can rebound the ball," Singler said. "One of the reasons why we had such a big lead in the first half (against St. John's) was, our bigs did such a great job rebounding our misses and getting them back in the basket."

Seniors Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas combined for 15 rebounds - seven offensive - off the bench, as 6-foot-10 brothers Miles and Mason Plumlee were together in the starting lineup for the first time. Each played fewer than 10 minutes as the freshman Mason Plumlee made his first start after recovering from a broken wrist.

Duke's best freshman has been guard Andre Dawkins, who is averaging 9.9 points and shooting 51.3 percent from 3-point range. It's unclear if Dawkins will be available for this game following the death of his sister in a car accident last week.

His presence likely won't affect the outcome, as Duke has not lost to a non-conference opponent at Cameron since St. John's won 83-82 there Feb. 26, 2000.

Gardner-Webb (3-4) does not appear to be a likely candidate to end the streak. The Runnin' Bulldogs have lost four straight, and none of their victories have come against Division I opponents.

Their two road games have resulted in a 95-66 defeat at Charlotte on Saturday, and a 93-72 loss at North Carolina last month.

Gardner-Webb is led by guard Grayson Flittner but the senior is off to a difficult start, averaging 10.6 points and shooting 34.3 percent from the field - well below his numbers from the two previous seasons.


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