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HALFTIME: Duke 42, Long Beach State 36

After a 70-point first-half performance their last time out, the Blue Devils seem to have come back down to Earth, at least through the opening 20 minutes against Long Beach State.

Duke leads the 49ers 42-36 after a half of play at Cameron Indoor Stadium, with the combined 16 points from freshman point guard Derryck Thornton and Matt Jones keeping the No. 15 team in the nation ahead of their eight-loss Big West counterparts. 

The duo of Noah Blackwell and Nick Faust—the 49ers' 6-foot-6 starting guard—gave Duke issues on both sides of the floor early on. Making his first career start, Blackwell drained his first four shots, three of which came from behind the arc, to give him a quick 11 points. Faust, a transfer from Maryland, was shut down offensively, notching just a free throw and transition dunk through the first 20 minutes, but held his own on the defensive side of the court, using his length to frustrate the Blue Devil 3-point shooters and prevent freshman Brandon Ingram from dominating with his short-range drives and jumpers.

Thornton started the game on a hot streak, splashing home a 3-pointer and mid-range jumper to push Duke to a quick 5-2 lead. The Chatsworth, Calif., native ended up with seven points in the first half, but was hampered by three personal fouls. 

The Beach would continue to pester the Blue Devils in all facets for a bit longer though, as, out of the timeout, following a Matt Jones baseline jumper, Gabe Levine muscled his way among the Duke bigs to secure an easy tip-in basket for Long Beach State and push its lead to 12-7. The lead ballooned to as much as 30-22 with the Blue Devils struggling from the floor, shooting just 34.4 percent from the floor.

With shots not falling, Duke got back into the game at the free-throw line. The 49ers relinquished the lead late following five straight trips to the charity stripe for the Blue Devils in the final two minutes. After Jones went 1-of-2, Allen, Marshall Plumlee and Luke Kennard went a combined 8-of-8 from the line to lock down a 40-35 lead.  Kennard tacked on a mid-range jumper to send the Blue Devils to the locker room with both the lead and the momentum.

Some observations from the first half:

  • Duke got its fair share of easy looks but just could not convert—both Allen and Ingram missed layups at the rim within the opening five minutes.
  • Little was heard from Allen for most of the first half, as the Blue Devil sophomore went for 1-of-6 from the field, but nailed all six of his free throws.
  • Duke' defensive focus was clearly on Faust throughout the half, as he entered the game averaging 16.6 points per game. Through 20 minutes, the senior has just three points. 
  • Through the opening 10 minutes, the 49ers shot 53.3 percent, or 8-of-15, from the field, forcing Duke to close out on long-range shooters, opening the door for pick-and-roll action, which Long Beach State took advantage of several times.


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