Tonight the Duke Blue Devils take on their toughest opponent since their ugly loss to Ohio State on November 29th. Since that time they have shook up their roster, took final exams and enjoyed a cupcake home schedule which has allowed them to tinker and get better. The Temple Owls are 9-3 on the season with a key win over Villanova. They are currently amidst a three game winning streak and hope to make it four as they welcome Duke to the Wells Fargo Center.
Temple will be a tough test as the Devils take to the road. In a surprising stat, the Devils have been the home team in every game but one this season, their lone loss. While four of those wins happened away from the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor, the home tag seems to be special for this group of players. A funny thing about this game is that although Duke is visiting, the game itself is not taking place at Temple’s home court, it is taking place at the Wells Fargo Arena.
Tonight the point guard play will be key for Duke. In the past three games, the Tyler Thornton vs. Quinn Cook debate has been all over Duke message boards. Many Duke fans are begging for Duke to start Quinn Cook. He is playing very well and his play will be key down the stretch. Others are enjoying the defensive pressure and poise that Tyler Thornton is adding on the court. Too many is better than not enough and Coach K certainly has a plan and will use both to the best of their ability.
Temple’s guards will provide a tough test for Thornton and Cook. If Cook can prove that his defense is solid and that he can lead this team, he could find himself starting this weekend as ACC play kicks off.
On the season, Temple’s Ramone Moore leads the team in scoring. The senior guard is as tough as they come and he will push Duke’s youth all night long. Moore is most dangerous on the free-throw line. In his 32-point explosion against Nova, he went 14-15 from the charity stripe. If he can get into the lane and draw fouls, he could hurt Duke. Additionally, in a close game down the stretch he will have the ball in his hands and is certainly not the person to foul.
Supplementing Moore is junior guard Khlif Wyatt. Second in scoring with 14.2 per game, he compliments Moore giving this Temple team a very dangerous backcourt. Wyatt’s scoring number inflate when he is getting his three-point shot going.
Against Texas, he scored 24 and went 4-of-7 from beyond the three-point line. Temple lost that game, but if they are going to contend with Duke they have to have production from long range. Duke struggled against Ohio State as the Buckeyes played well behind the arch. If Temple can do the same, they will be in this game.
In the UFC they say styles make fights. In this bout, guards will be fighting guards all night long but the war will be won by the trees. The Plumlee-Kelly connection is the key to this game. Temple doesn’t have anyone that can play both in and out like Kelly, and they really don’t have anyone that can pressure Miles or Mason.
If those three can control the boards and give Duke second-chance shots, then Duke should win this one easy. Duke is certainly confident after three straight slaughters and if they can start off hot, then this game could get out of hand early.
Duke has struggled outside of Cameron and while I don’t expect them to lose, I do think this one will be closer than many think. I am calling a 74-68 win by the Devils as they roll into conference play with six straight wins.