EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Temple entered the Izod Center attempting to upset No. 2 Duke for the second time this year. The Blue Devils were sporting an undefeated record and had already knocked off the second, third and fourth ranked teams in the country. While the Owls came in protecting one of the two remaining perfect records in the Atlantic 10 Conference, they were unable to extend their best start since 1987.
Duke (9-0) beat Temple (6-1) 90-67 thanks in large part to a first half spent primarily behind the three-point arc, and at the free throw line. Duke punished Temple for committing 11 first-half fouls with 12 made free throws. The Blue Devils also went 6-for-11 on three point attempts in the first half, finishing the game with a 60 percent shooting percentage from three-point range.
“As good as [Duke’s forwards] are inside, the guys that really hammered us were [senior guard Seth Curry] and [sophomore guard Quinn Cook],” coach Fran Dunphy said. “As hard as it is to compete inside with the Duke team, their guards just stepped up and made huge shots for them.”
Freshman guard Quenton DeCosey led the Owls with a career high 13 points in a career high 18 minutes. By going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, it was the second time this season that DeCosey hasn’t missed from that area. The guard is playing unusually high minutes for a freshman, something Dunphy said is a product of his work ethic and talent.
“[DeCosey] is really going to be a good basketball player,” Dunphy said. “He has no fear and thinks he is just supposed to score against anybody at anytime. I think he is a really good basketball player, but he is learning.”
“[DeCosey] is a great guy and coach Dunphy has a lot of confidence in him and he has a lot of confidence in himself,” redshirt-senior forward Scootie Randall said. “He has a lot to learn and a lot of time to learn it.”
Temple came into the contest looking to stop Duke senior forward Mason Plumlee, who averaged 19.6 points per game in the team’s first eight games of the season. While he connected on a modest 5-of-14 from the floor, he was able to draw multiple fouls on the Owls guarding him.
Redshirt-sophomore forward Anthony Lee, graduate forward Jake O’Brien and Randall all drew Plumlee on defense at times in the first half. The trio joined sophomore guard Will Cummings in picking up two first half fouls as the four players combined to play 34 minutes in the first period.
“I thought Anthony did some good things, and I was happy to see Jake get a post move in their too,” Dunphy said. “But we are not a pound it down inside kind of team, we are a drive and kick kind of group. We have to make plays for one another and we can’t get out of character.”
Senior guard Khalif Wyatt, who was a thorn in Duke’s side when the teams met a year ago with 22 points, was held in check by the Blue Devils. After shooting 1-of-9 in the first half against Villanova, Wyatt went 2-of-10 from the field in the first half against Duke. He would finish the game with six points, his lowest total of the season.
“Wyatt didn’t play well,” Dunphy said. “He wasn’t necessarily helping our team. He is going to get out of character sometimes too. As a coach of Khalif I love him to death. There are times that you just have to put up with what he does because he is going to come back and hit a big shot for you. Today just wasn’t his day.”
While Dunphy credited Wyatt’s performance to the senior playing out of character, Duke put added defensive pressure on the player that hurt them last season.
“We did a good job on Wyatt,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He is a great offensive player and to hold him to six points is huge.”
“Wyatt and Randall were the two focal points coming in to the game,” Krzyzewski added. “We wanted to make it difficult for them to catch the ball so it’s not as comfortable for them to play their game.”
Randall was the team’s leading scorer coming into the game, but finished with six points.
“I thought their defense was really good, and we added to it a little bit,” Dunphy said. “We rushed and got out of character. We tried to do some things that we can’t do and we ran out of patience a little bit.”
The free throw line provided perhaps the biggest disparity between the team. Temple went 1-for-4 from the line, with the first attempt coming 31 minutes into the game. Duke attempted 29 free throws and connected on 22.
“These kind of foul discrepancies are going to happen,” Dunphy said. “We are not a great draw-er of fouls. It’s not what we necessarily do. They are through, they are tough to guard inside.”
Temple players said they know the loss will be a teaching tool.
“We just need to take this game in stride,” Randall said. “We are going to study film and I already know what we are going to do when we get back. We know what we just faced and what we can accomplish down the road.”
Temple finished the game with one starter on the floor. Freshman forward Devontae Watson scored his first points of the year with a tip in with less than a minute remaining. The Owls will head back home to take on Towson on Dec. 12.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.