After earning a signature win against third-ranked Kentucky at a neutral site Tuesday, beating an unranked team at home would appear to be an easy feat for the Blue Devils. Florida Gulf Coast, however, is riding just as much momentum—the Eagles defeated Miami, ranked fourth in the ACC preseason coaches’ poll, Tuesday.
No. 9 Duke (2-0) will look to avoid being Florida Gulf Coast’s (2-1) second ACC victim Sunday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“Florida Gulf Coast is a good basketball team,” Blue Devil assistant coach Jeff Capel said. “Their win against Miami is as big of a win as they’ve ever had in their program, so they’re going to be very, very confident. We played well against Kentucky, but we don’t want that to be the only time that we do that. We want to build off it, and hopefully that becomes who we are as a team and not just who we are at times.”
Eagle sophomore Bernard Thompson scored 13 points and notched four steals against Miami. After a successful rookie season, the guard was a unanimous Atlantic Sun All-Freshmen pick.
“We expect him to help carry us at times throughout the season offensively, but he’s also an excellent defender,” Florida Gulf Coast head coach Andy Enfield said. “He really contributes to our success on both ends of the court.”
Another major contributor on the Eagles’ roster is sophomore point guard Brett Comer. Also an Atlantic Sun All-Freshmen selection last season, he recorded eight assists and zero turnovers against the Hurricanes.
“We have to really get after him Sunday and not allow him to quarterback the team,” Capel said.
Enfield called his team “young and inexperienced” in comparison to a Blue Devil roster that includes three seniors and two juniors who play regular minutes. Duke seniors Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly combined for 51 of the team’s 75 points against Kentucky. Capel noted the importance of continuing to utilize that experience.
“Those are guys that we need to set the tone for everything we do with our basketball team and set an example for the younger guys in our program, teaching them the values and standards that our program represents,” he said.
The Blue Devils, who played fundamentally-sound basketball against Georgia State and Kentucky, continued to hone those fundamentals in practice this week. Against the Wildcats, Duke recorded 16 assists and made just eight turnovers.
“We’ve been focusing on our defense and executing on offensive sets,” junior guard Tyler Thornton said. “We’re trying to build on what we’ve started so far this season.”
Duke will not be the only team trying to build on a strong start to the season Sunday night. Florida Gulf Coast is equally determined to win in its second game against an ACC opponent.
“We understand and respect the abilities of the Duke players,” Enfield said. “They have a hall of fame coach, and Cameron is a difficult place to play. But we’re coming up with a game plan that takes their strengths away and gives us a chance to win the game.”