Note - we added links in last night as usual but for some reason they didn't publish. They're included now.
Duke had a big win over Temple Saturday, and unlike last year, there was never a point where Temple seemed particularly close, or really, that the Owls even threatened to be. After Duke built a double-digit lead, Temple cut it to 10, but never got closer.
But let's be realistic: the 9-0 record Temple sported coming into this was a bit deceiving. The best win was probably over Villanova, and the New City guys aren't exactly tearing it up at 4-4 themselves (with losses to Columbia and LaSalle among them).
Temple's other wins were over Kent, Rice, Delaware (by just five; Duke trounced the Blue Hens), Buffalo and Wagner by eight.
Not exactly Murderer's Row.
Still, Temple has some talent, not least of all Khalif Wyatt, who last year just killed Duke, shooting 3-5 from three point range, 8-12 overall and finishing with 22.
This year? Duke held him to six points on 3-15 shooting.
Duke held the Owls overall to 39.7%.
The rebounding was close to even, with Duke having one more total at 37-36, but losing the offensive board battle 16-10.
Seth Greenberg led the by now traditional grousing about Duke and fouls ("they were in the bonus in Cameron when we got off the bus") , but as Dana O' Neill says, that's a lazy argument in this game: Duke shot 60% from three point range and scored 36 points on the shot. Defend that or force a two and you shave 12 points off the final. Hit your own free throws and it's down to eight.
Temple only had four free throws, but on the other hand, they also only made one of those.
None of Temple's starters made more than three shots; no one took less than seven.
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Temple's problems came largely from Duke's defense, which was very good, and secondarily from trying to contain Mason Plumlee.
They basically gang-defended him (thus leaving the outside less defended, hence the threes) and roughed him up when he did get the ball. Plumlee and Kelly drew a lot of fouls: Plumlee went to the line six times by our count and Kelly four.
Of Duke's 29 free throws, 19 were by the big men. Seth Curry had four, Rasheed Sulaimon three. Quinn Cook had two and Amile Jefferson one.
Simple observation: Temple couldn't handle Duke's bigs. Corollary: they couldn't get around Duke's perimeter defense either.
If you can't pass one of those two tests, you're in for a long afternoon.
More good news: Duke got 15 points and six boards from the bench. At this point Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston are known qualities, but Amile Jefferson and Alex Murphy may be emerging. Murphy may be getting over (this is our speculation) a confidence issue as the last two games he has played with much more. Jefferson has no problem with confidence; his battle is with his own thin frame. He knows what to do when he's in the game.
Even more good news: Marshall Plumlee warmed up and while he didn't play he will soon.
That gives Duke a deeper bench and a third big man. It also gives Duke a chance to rest big brother Mason, who is averaging 33.8 mpg and Kelly, who is pulling down 30.3 mpg.
It means that Duke also has a fully functional second unit if you put Murphy at the guard spot. Not a big deal, but nice and certainly useful for practice. Josh Hairston, who has done an admirable job defending much bigger players, can start to guard guys who are closer to his own size.
Duke (and most of all Curry) gets an extended break before Cornell comes to town on the 19th, then Elon the day after, thus giving Duke the traditional tournament turn-around Coach K likes to simulate for later purposes.
After that it's Santa Clara on the 29th and Davidson on the 2nd.
Assuming they win all four, Duke will enter ACC play 13-0. They'll get Wake at home first, followed by Clemson, also at home.
And if they win both of those, they take the short trip to Raleigh to take on the Pack at 15-0.
Talk about a setup: State has wanted another crack at Duke ever since they let their great performance in Cameron fizzle late in the second half, allowing Duke to take over and steal one.
Just to be clear about it, State was great, unquestionably superb,until they weren't.
If Duke comes in at 15-0 though, assuming State continues to improve - and there's no reason they should lose between now and then, with the possible exception of an improving Georgia Tech - the atmosphere for that game will be electrifying.