UConn-Duke Preview

BY foxsports • December 17, 2014

Duke has been able to count on highly touted freshman Jahlil Okafor since his debut, especially in its most underwhelming performance of the season.

The second-ranked Blue Devils will likely need contributions from other sources when Okafor faces one of his toughest matchups in Connecticut's Amida Brimah.

Duke continues its storied series with the Huskies on Thursday night at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Anointed as the top recruit in his class by most recruiting outlets, Okafor has largely met if not exceeded those high expectations. He has averaged 18.0 points and 9.0 rebounds while leading Duke (9-0) to an average victory margin of 26.9. His 65.5 field-goal percentage is one of the best in Division I.

The Blue Devils were shaky in Monday's 75-62 victory over Elon, getting outscored 41-39 in the second half. They committed a season-high 17 turnovers after previously averaging 9.4 and were 14 for 27 from the free-throw line after shooting 70.0 percent in the first eight games.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski suspected his team was rusty in its first game since an 80-70 victory at then-No. 2 Wisconsin 12 days earlier.

"Human nature beat the hell out of us," he said.

Okafor was dominant, however, with a season-high 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting and a freshman school-record 20 rebounds, including 10 on offense.

Krzyzewski thought the 6-foot-11 Okafor hid his team's shortcomings. Starting guards Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones combined for 11 points with Cook going 3 for 9 from the field and Jones missing his only attempt. The duo scored 35 points on 11-of-16 shooting against the Badgers.

"It's like sweeping dirt under the rug," Krzyzewski said. "The dirt's still there. Now he's a big rug. But you're still sweeping dirt under there."

Brimah is one of the few players ahead of Okafor in field-goal percentage, improving to 37 for 53 (69.8 percent) following a 13-for-13, 40-point performance in Sunday's 106-85 win over Coppin State that snapped UConn's three-game slide.

The 7-footer became the first player to make all of his shots with at least 13 attempts since Montana State's Calvin Ento was 13 for 13 with 27 points against Dickinson State on Dec. 10, 2002.

Brimah, who had already more than doubled his scoring average from his freshman season before Sunday, is more renown for his defense, however. He ranks in the top 25 in the nation with 2.9 blocks per game.

Ryan Boatright scored 22 points and was 4 of 7 from 3-point range to help the Huskies (4-3) finish 7 for 18 from beyond the arc after they were 8 for 44 during their losing streak.

Duke has won 13 straight and 20 of 21 all-time at the Izod Center while UConn is 11-8. The Blue Devils knocked off the Huskies there 79-78 in overtime on a Christian Laettner jumper at the buzzer in a 1990 regional final.

UConn defeated Duke in the 1999 national title game and the 2004 national semifinals, though the Blue Devils took a 5-4 series edge with a 68-59 win in the 2009 NIT Season Tip-Off championship game.

Duke is seeking the 19th 10-0 start in school history, though this could be the first with all 10 victories coming by double digits.