Portland is about 275 miles from Medford, Oregon, so all those you-can't-go-home-again references may not be appropriate.
Then again, Portland is a lot closer to Medford than Durham is to Medford.
However, you slice it, Kyle Singler made the most of his one chance to show off his college skills in his home state, scoring a season-high 30 points and keying Duke to an easy 98-71 victory over the Oregon Ducks.
Singler staked Duke to a 5-0 lead that was never seriously threatened. The Ducks did make one run, cutting a 29-10 Duke lead to a more manageable 33-23 late in the first half after Duke got stuck on 33 for a couple of minutes.
But Duke built the lead back to 40-25 at halftime.
Oregon scored the first four points of the second half but they just don't have the horses to stay with a focused Duke team. Or the Ducks.
Led by Luke Ridnour, Luke Jackson and Freddie Jones, Oregon made the Elite Eight as recently as 2002 and it was no fluke. But Ernie Kent lost his recruiting mojo and then his job, after 8-23 and 16-16 seasons. New coach Dana Altman has his moments at Creighton--remember Kyle Korver--but he's in a power conference now and it may take some time.
Still, this could have been a trap game. Duke is a long way from home and this is the only time in the regular season that the Blue Devils will play three consecutive games away from Cameron. Duke was coming off a big win in the CBE/O'Reilly Autoparts Classic and Singler was dealing with a boatload of distractions.
It didn't happen, didn't even come close to happening, although some of the turnovers were a bit wince-inducing.
Best of all was that 19-1 run in the second half, a textbook surge that put Duke up 61-31. It all came together, suffocating defense, steals, blocked shots, dunks in transition, threes in the half-court.
No team can sustain that kind of excellence for very long but Duke seems to have a run like that in its pocket, the better to devastate an opponent. Duke just keeps so much pressure on opposing teams that even the slightest wobble, the briefest blink of an eye and you're back on your heels, looking for a place to hide.
Duke isn't going to be able to run like that against the better teams on their schedule and Michigan State might be the best team on their schedule. The Blue Devils have been road warriors for a week but Michigan State spent the holidays in Maui and they have a Sunday tune-up against Tennessee State, so Duke has no complaints on that score.
Tom Izzo's predilection for no-blood, no-fouls half-court slugfests is well known. So far, Duke has answered all the questions presented to it. They'll have a national platform Wednesday night to answer another one. How will they respond to a physical assault by a big but skilled and well-coached Big Ten team?
Of course, it works the other way. I suspect Izzo has had some sleepless nights trying to figure out how to slow down the Duke fast break and match up with three of the nation's top perimeter players.
Duke has been rebounding well, a 40-29 advantage over Oregon, with Mason and Miles Plumlee pulling down 12 and 10 rebounds respectively. If they can duplicate that against the Spartans, Duke can run and if Duke can run, good things will happen, especially if the Blue Devils are more careful with the ball.
Singler equaled his career high of 30 points, set this February in an 86-67 win over Georgia Tech. He made eight three-pointers in that win, only one behind the school record, co-held by Shane Battier and J.J. Redick. He had five against Oregon.
Duke made 13 three-pointers against Oregon and has made 59 in six games. The 2001 Duke team made 407 threes in 39 games. This is the only Duke team to average more than ten threes per game.
Singler scored in double figures for the 100th time in his Duke career. That's out of 117 games. Johnny Dawkins is Duke's career leader with 129. Assuming Duke makes the post-season, Duke has a minimum of 27 games remaining and a maximum of 34.
Kyle Singler's younger brother Ed had 14 points, most long after the outcome was obvious. The most famous sibling match up in Duke hoops history took place in the 1992 NCAA Tournament. Bobby Hurley had seven assists to lead Duke to an 81-69 win over Seton Hall in the Sweet Sixteen. His younger brother Danny was scoreless off the bench for Seton Hall.
When Harvard visited Duke in 1985, the Duke students serenaded senior Harvard star Bob Ferry, Jr. with chants of "we want your brother." Ferry scored 19 points, Duke won 82-53 and Duke did indeed get his brother. Danny Ferry was the 1988 and 1989 ACC Player of the Year.
Mason Plumlee's single-game rebounding high last season was nine, in the first meeting against UNC. He has surpassed that total three times this month.
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