Elon (6-4) at (1) Duke (10-0)
Thursday, December 20, 7 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cameron Indoor Stadium (9,314) -- Durham, North Carolina. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Elon 4-1, Duke 5-0. Away Record: Elon 2-3, Duke 0-0. Neutral Record: Elon 0-0, Duke 5-0. Conference Record: Elon 1-1, Duke 0-0. Series Record: Duke leads, 17-7.
GAME NOTES: The Duke Blue Devils will attempt to continue their reign as the nation's top-ranked team on Thursday night when they host the Elon Phoenix at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Following a 74-59 loss to Butler in its season opener, Elon ripped off four straight wins, highlighted by a road victory over South Carolina, 65-53. The Phoenix have since fallen back to 6-4 by losing three of their last five. They participated in the Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase last Saturday against UMass, but after forcing overtime with a 3-pointer in the waning seconds of regulation, they fell in overtime, 78-73.
Not only are the Blue Devils off to a fantastic 10-0 start to the season, but they have proven their greatness by toppling some of the best teams in the country, whether it be Kentucky on Nov. 13 (75-68) or Louisville in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game (76-71), or Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge (76-71). Duke stepped aside from its rigorous early-season schedule to play a much easier opponent on Wednesday night, taking care of visiting Cornell in an 88-47 final. It was the 99th straight non-conference win at home for Duke, with the last loss in such a game coming against St. John's in 2000.
Duke has a handle on the all-time series with Elon, 17-7, which includes a 98-72 triumph in the last meeting in December of 2010.
The Phoenix fought tooth and nail against UMass, and had it been able to shoot greater than 29.9 percent from the field (including 8-of-35 from 3-point range), they probably could have pulled off the win. Jack Isenbarger led the way with 22 points, but that was mostly a product of his high volume of field goal attempts (6-of-20). He also added six rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Lucas Troutman recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Sebastian Koch narrowly missed one with 15 points and nine boards. Elon hasn't been particularly efficient with its field goal attempts this season (.393), but it's able to hold on to a plus-6.4 scoring margin by playing tight defense (.391 FG percentage allowed). Isenbarger (14.7 ppg) makes his shots at just a 35.4 percent clip, but he's able to offset that somewhat by shooting 84.8 percent from the foul line. Troutman (14.6 ppg) has been great in the paint with 6.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg and 1.6 spg.
Duke's 41-point victory over Cornell was its most dominant win of the season, and most of the onslaught came in the second half where it outscored the Big Red by a 47-17 margin. The Blue Devils shot a lofty 56.7 percent from the field and won the turnover battle by an astounding 26-10 margin. Seth Curry was fantastic, shooting 7-of-10 from the floor for 20 points, while Mason Plumlee was perhaps even better, making all eight of his field goal attempts for 18 points, adding nine rebounds and three blocks as well. Rasheed Sulaimon chipped in 16 points and three steals. Without question, Plumlee has been one of the nation's elite players this season, as he's shooting greater than 61 percent from the floor for 18.9 ppg. He's more than just a scorer, adding 11.1 rpg and nearly two blocks per contest. Seth Curry (16.5 ppg) is also an outstanding scorer, making more than 40 percent of his 3-pointers and better than 90 percent of his free throws. Rounding out perhaps the best starting lineup in the country is Sulaimon (13.4 ppg), Ryan Kelly (11.8 ppg) and Quinn Cook (10.4 ppg).
Playing on back-to-back nights could cause Duke to come out a bit sluggish, but as one of the most disciplined and talented teams in the nation, it will surely overcome any level of fatigue, especially playing at home against an inferior opponent. It might not be the blowout they just enjoyed, but the Blue Devils shouldn't have to sweat this one out for long.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Duke 83, Elon 64
12/20 10:37:41 ET