Anthony Bellino (@Bellino_Anthony)
The free-throw is the simplest play in basketball, an unguarded shot that is worth one-point. The free-throw and its simplicity turned out to be the difference Saturday afternoon’s contest between Duke and Temple.
For the game the Owls shot four free throws and didn’t shoot their first until the 8:49 mark of the second half. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils got the line 29 times and converted 22 of those opportunities. That difference helped Duke run away to a 90-67 victory over Temple.
“These sorts of foul discrepancies are gonna happen,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “I wouldn’t worry too much about that part of the game.”
The Blue Devils were led by senior center Mason Plumlee, who finished the night with a double-double–13 points and 14 rebounds, including 10 trips to the free-throw line.
Temple (6-1) had chances, but whenever they seemed to be closing the Duke lead to single digits the Blue Devils would hit a 3-pointer, or get a transition dunk off a Temple turnover. Duke shot 12-of-20 (60 percent) from beyond the arc and 47.5 percent (28-of-59) overall while holding Temple to a 39.7 percent (29-of-73) performance from the field and 8-of-21 (38.1 percent) beyond the arc.
“They stepped up and made some great, great shots,” Dunphy said. “I think our guys played hard. I think we were a little bit scared early, we had some nervousness going for us early.
“I thought we had some open looks when we were sniffing at a comeback. Then they stepped up, they had back-to-back 3s in front of their bench that really hurt us,” he added.
Senior guard Seth Curry, freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon and sophomore guard Quinn Cook provided several of those daggers for Duke (9-0). Curry had a game-high 23 points, Sulaimon had eight and Cook added 14 for the second-ranked team in the nation. The Blue Devils also got a double-double from senior forward Ryan Kelly, who finished the game with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Duke had 19 assists and just 6 turnovers led by a 7 assist 0 turnover performance from Sulaimon.
“We’ve just taken good care of the ball, there’s no secret we’re just taking good care of it,” Krzyzewski said. “Most of the time we have three guards in there who can be a point guard, so you have overall four guys who are accustomed to handling the ball pretty well.”
Temple senior Khalif Wyatt struggled to get anything going on the offensive end. Coming off a Villanova game where he was 4-of-16 from the field Wyatt was 3-of-15 against the Blue Devils and managed just six points, the same amount as Scootie Randall. Wyatt and Randall combined to miss all seven of their 3-point attempts.
“They’re the two focal points, there’s no question about it, with Wyatt it’s make it hard for him to catch it, try to get him a little bit further out on the court and not react to his fakes,” Krzyzewski said. “With Randall try not to let him get the ball, he’s really a three-four and been hot, came into this game hitting five three’s, I thought we just made it a little bit harder for him to catch the ball.”
There were a few bright spots for Temple. Junior guard Dalton Pepper played his best game of the year; the West Virginia transfer scored six points and had three rebounds off the bench. Freshman guard Quenton DeCosey led the Owls with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
“Coming in I just wanted to come in and be aggressive, when coach Fran put me in he said just be aggresive, don’t worry about anything,” DeCosey said. “I just wanted to help my team out any way possible, today was scoring.”
Senior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson played bigger than his 6-foot-6 frame against a much bigger Duke squad. For much of the game Hollis-Jefferson was matched up against Plumlee (6-foot-10) and Kelly (6-foot-11). Hollis-Jefferson did a little bit of everything for head coach Fran Dunphy, finishing the afternoon with six points, five rebounds, three blocks, four assists and two steals.
“Rahlir’s a tough guy, I mean I’ve been around Rahlir for a long time and I know Rahlir personally so I think coming into the game he knew he was going to be undersized,” Randall said. “He knew he had to do other things to help us out on offense and defense, I think he did well.”
Temple now has to shake their first loss of the season and play Towson at home on Wednesday. The Owls cannot dwell on their performance against the second-ranked team in the country or they will be in for a rude awakening moving forward.