EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In classic Blue Devils fashion, No. 2 Duke (9-0) handed Temple (6-1) its first loss of the season in an impressive 90-67 showing at the Izod Center Saturday.
Duke scored more than half of its points from the free throw line and beyond the three-point line, outscoring Temple 58 to 25 in those two areas combined. The Owls made more field goals (29) than the Blue Devils (28), but Temple couldn’t get to the line or make threes at a high percentage.
The Owls shot 8-for-21 (38 percent) from three-point range, while Duke shot 12-for-20 (60 percent). The Blue Devils outscored the Owls 18 to 12 from three in both the first and second halves. Senior guard Seth Curry led all players with five treys and 23 points.
Duke outscored Temple at the free throw line 22 to one. The Blue Devils took 29 free throws compared the Owls’ four. Temple didn’t take its first free throw until the 8:40 mark of the second half.
Temple got into foul trouble early, with four Owls holding two fouls heading into halftime. Temple committed 11 first-half fouls, allowing for 12 Duke points from the line. The Owls drew six fouls in the first half, but none of them came in the act of shooting.
Not only did the foul trouble equate to double-digit Duke points, but it limited Temple’s main presence in the frontcourt. Redshirt-sophomore Anthony Lee picked up his second foul of the game at the 13:09 mark of the first half, and was held to participating in nine of the game’s first 20 minutes. He finished with six points and nine rebounds in 17 minutes.
“I thought Anthony did some good things,” coach Fran 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.”
Despite Lee’s absence down low, it was Curry and the efforts of the Duke backcourt that led to the Blue Devils’ blowout. Curry’s 23 points was literally the difference in the game. He shot 7-for-11 (64 percent) from the field, including 5-for-9 (56 percent) from three.
Though talk coming into the game questioned if Lee could guard Duke’s leading scorer in 6-foot-10-inch senior forward Mason Plumlee, Duke’s 60 percent three-point shooting performance was a bigger problem than Temple’s lack of size up front. The Owls managed to outrebound the Blue Devils 39 to 38, and outscored them in the paint 36 to 28, but Duke outscored Temple 36 to 24 from three.
“As good as [Duke’s forwards] are inside, the guys that really hammered us were Curry and [sophomore guard Quinn Cook],” 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.”
On two separate occasions in the second half, Duke hit threes to extend its lead to 17 to kill Temple’s late rally. Blue Devils’ senior forward Ryan Kelly followed a Temple trey with a three-pointer of his own with nine minutes, 23 seconds remaining. Curry hit his fourth three at the 8:41 mark, one of a virtual endless series of late second-half Duke daggars.
“They had two back-to-back threes in front of their bench that really killed us,” Dunphy said. “I think the lead was 14 late in the game, and Curry stepped up and said, ‘I’m tough enough to make this shot.'”
The Owls’ two leading scorers coming into the game, redshirt-senior forward Scootie Randall and senior guard Khalif Wyatt, were held to six points each. After scoring 22 points in Temple’s upset win against Duke in January, Wyatt shot 3-for-15, including 0-for-4 from three Saturday.
“[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.”
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Wyatt and Randall were the Blue Devils’ defensive focal point coming into the game.
“We wanted to make it difficult for them to catch the ball so it’s not as comfortable for them to play their game,” Krzyzewski said. “We did a good job on Wyatt. He is a great offensive player and to hold him to six points is huge.”
While size is still an ongoing issue with Temple, and though the Owls will continue to struggle when Lee gets into foul trouble, on Saturday, Temple just ran into a sharpshooting Duke team, like so many other teams in recent memory.
“That’s a really good basketball team,” Dunphy said. “They are as advertised. They have a fabulous coach and a fabulous program. For us, it’s a spectacular opportunity to play a great basketball program, coach and team.”
Joey Cranney can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @joey_cranney.