For one of the top-ranked teams in the nation, Duke didn’t appear especially dominate against Temple Wednesday night and, in the end, they didn’t need to be.
Temple was too lethargic to take advantage of No. 9 Duke’s slow start and too far behind to catch up to the Blue Devils in the second half. The inconsistent effort contributed to the Owls’ 74-64 loss to Duke in front of 18,030 at the Wachovia Center.
The Owls (6-7) committed 20 turnovers, including 12 in the first half, and shot a season-low 34.5 percent from the field.
“Against this caliber of team we need to be almost flawless and we were not that,” coach Fran Dunphy said.
Duke freshman forward Taylor King scored 15 points off the bench to lead four players who finished in double-digits. King nailed 3-of-5 shots from beyond the arc in only 12 minutes of playing time.
The Blue Devils (12-1) shot only 38.2 percent from the field, but benefited from key contributions from freshmen Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and King. The trio combined for 29 points on 50 percent shooting.
“Our freshman class did a really good job,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Taylor King gave us a huge lift.”
Junior guard Dionte Christmas led the Owls with 23 points. Senior guard Mark Tyndale scored 20 points, while sophomore guard Ryan Brooks added 7 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
The Blue Devils built a 53-34 lead with 15 minutes, 12 seconds left in the second half when Christmas helped ignite an 11-0 Temple run to slice Duke’s lead to eight with 8:01 remaining. Christmas, who was held to five points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half, scored 15 consecutive points for the Owls during a six minute stretch in the second half. He scored 18 of his 23 points in the second stanza.
“I told my staff that [Christmas] is going to get 20 on us in the second half unless we’re right on him,” Krzyzewski said. “He plays with a verve and that’s what their team needs – any team needs that.”
Despite Christmas’ hot hand, the Owls couldn’t keep the momentum going. After Semaj Inge sank a pair of free throws to cut Duke’s lead to 53-45, the Blue Devils answered with 8-0 run that kept the Owls out of reach.
Both teams struggled to score at the start of the game, but Duke found its footing first. Possibly feeding off of the decidedly pro-Duke crowd, the Blue Devils went on a 16-3 run which gave them a 34-19 advantage at the 3:20 mark of the first half.
“We didn’t run great offense, especially in the first half,” Dunphy said. Temple went 1-of-13 shooting to finish the first half.
“We got a little bit out of sorts in that first half, trying to do some things that we can’t do,” Dunphy added.
The Owls, who arrived at the Wachovia Center via SEPTA’s Broad Street Line, shot 7-of-27 in the first half and were sullied by turnovers. The Blue Devils scored 12 points off of turnovers before intermission.
“We just weren’t poised,” Christmas said. “Those guys did a good job of playing help defense … I think that caused a lot of turnovers.”
With the win, Krzyzewski improves to 9-1 against Temple as Duke’s coach. The Blue Devils have won the last eight meetings between the two teams.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at Tyson@temple.edu