When Duke and Temple met last season, the then-No. 5 Blue Devils fell to an unranked Owl squad 78-73 after winning 13 of their last 14 games.
Coming off an 88-50 drubbing of Delaware at Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday, No. 2 Duke (8-0) hopes to continue its winning ways and avoid its second straight upset at the hands of Temple (6-0) Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J.
“We’ve had a great start this season, but it’s not about how you start,” senior forward Mason Plumlee said. “We’ve got to stay hungry and get better.”
Although the Owls are unranked, they received votes in the AP Poll after they won their fifth straight game. None of their wins have come against ranked opponents, though they own a 80-75 win against the same Delaware squad that the Blue Devils beat by 38. Plumlee said, however, that Duke is expecting to take the court against a different Temple team than the one that eked out a close win against the Blue Hens.
“Every team plays us differently than they do other teams,” he said. “Teams have their best game against us. They’ll shoot the ball better, and they’ll play harder. Watching film on teams isn’t relevant because they aren’t going to be the same team once you play them.”
The teams have many similarities, each featuring one efficient post player—Plumlee boasts a 65.4 field-goal percentage, while Temple sophomore forward Anthony Lee has made 65.9 percent of his field-goal attempts.
“We’re similar,” Duke sophomore point guard Quinn Cook said. “It’s going to be a fun game. We’re going to see who wants it more.”
In addition to orchestrating the Blue Devil offense with 5.9 assists per game on average, Cook has found his groove as a scorer, averaging 10.5 points per game.
“Quinn’s played great so far,” Plumlee said. “People were surprised in the Kentucky game, and they were surprised when he was MVP of the [Battle 4 Atlantis], but I don’t think they’re surprised anymore—they know that’s what he’s going to give us every day, and we know that as a team.”
Cook, as well as the other guards on the team—freshman Rasheed Sulaimon, junior Tyler Thornton and senior Seth Curry—have been focusing on rebounding the ball. If the guards are in the right spots, they can help win 50-50 ball battles, Plumlee said. A better performance from them on both the offensive and defensive glass will be critical against an Owl squad that pulls down a similar number of boards per game as the Blue Devils.
“Rebounding has definitely been the biggest emphasis from our first eight games,” Cook said. “We can’t just rely on Mason or Ryan [Kelly] to grab all the rebounds. We all know that and have been working on it every day.”
Plumlee added that his brother Marshall, a redshirt freshman forward who has yet to play this season with a stress fracture in his foot, is “a heck of a rebounder.” There is a possibility that Marshall, who is almost fully healed and has started practicing, will come off the bench against Temple.
The Owls’ key focuses entering the matchup are taking care of the ball, giving up few second-chance opportunities and communicating well, especially on the defensive end, head coach Fran Dunphy said. He noted that senior guard Khalif Wyatt, a second-team All-Atlantic 10 Conference selection last season, will need to come up with a big performance against Duke, bouncing back from his 4-for-16 shooting from the field against Villanova Wednesday night.
In last season’s game against the Blue Devils, he made 8-of-12 shots in a 22-point performance.
“We need him to have a very good game against Duke, as he did last year when he propelled us to victory,” Dunphy said. “[Duke’s] defense will very much be set for Khalif, but we need him to be the best player he can be.”
Like the Blue Devils, Temple is going into Saturday as a hungry team looking to maintain its undefeated record.
“I don’t have to talk to the players very much about playing a team like Duke,” Dunphy said. “We’re playing one of the best programs in the history of college basketball, so we don’t have to talk too much because we know the focus will be there. The next step for us is to execute, and it’s certainly going to take our best execution to beat a team like Duke.”