DURHAM, N.C. – Despite playing the No. 1 team in the nation tight for the majority of the game, the men’s basketball team eventually succumbed to the Cameron Crazies as the Owls fell to Duke, 78-61.
The Owls led as late as the 12:06 mark in the first half and trailed by just four with 26 seconds remaining in the first half.
That’s when sophomore guard Seth Curry, the younger brother of Golden State Warrior Stephen Curry, decided to give his team some much-needed breathing room.
Curry ran the clock down to just five seconds and threw up a three-point attempt that appeared to miss. The ball rattled above the rim and managed to fall in just as time expired to give the Blue Devils a seven-point halftime lead.
“I thought we survived the first half while not making a lot of shots,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “We were hanging but that last three at the end of the half hurt us. We didn’t manage the game as well as we needed to.”
The Owls trailed, 31-24, at halftime despite holding the Blue Devils to 37 percent shooting from the field. A significant portion of that had to do with Temple failing to convert free throws as the Owls shot just 1-of-5 from the charity stripe in the opening 20 minutes compared to Duke’s 8-of-9 performance.
The team’s three best shooters, junior guards Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore, along with sophomore guard Khalif Wyatt, shot a combined 1-of-7 from the floor in the first half. Things weren’t much better in the second half, as the trio shot 6-of-19 in the closing minutes.
Still, despite Curry’s buzzer-beater and a lack of success from the team’s guards, the Owls were optimistic at halftime, Moore said.
“Heading into the halftime, down seven, myself and Juan didn’t do too much in the first half so I thought we were in good position to cut that lead,” Moore said. “But, their runs in the second half kept increasing the lead, which hurt us.”
Unfortunately for Moore and company, the Blue Devils came alive in the second half, shooting 54.8 percent, including 55.6 percent from beyond the arc. The team’s success at the free-throw line continued, as Duke shot a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.
The Blue Devils went on a run of at least six straight points on three separate occasions in the second half, something that crippled the Owls.
“Our defensive rebounding in the second half led to some runs,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We got a double-digit lead because we rebounded the ball three or four times straight and got a fast break on it”
“Our offense wasn’t as good as it needed to be [in the second half],” Dunphy added. “We needed to take better shots, maybe even run the clock a little bit more, try to get it inside and let the defense collapse.”
Senior forward Kyle Singler led all scorers with 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting, including 16 points in the second half.
“Kyle played a sensational game,” Krzyzewski said. “Offensively, it’s obvious what he was doing. Defensively, he was on Moore … he held him to eight points. Kyle’s been doing that all year.”
Senior guard Nolan Smith finished the game with 15 points but shot just 5-of-17 for the Blue Devils. Duke’s starters played at least 30 minutes a piece as Coach K went to his bench for just 25 minutes all game.
Playing without junior forward Scootie Randall (foot) and junior center Micheal Eric (knee), the Owls were thin in the front court. It didn’t prove to be an issue, however, as sophomore forward Rahlir Jefferson and senior forward Lavoy Allen combined to play 79 minutes in the loss. Additionally, Jefferson and Allen were two of the lone bright spots for the Owls. Allen would finish with a team-high 17 points and 13 rebounds while Jefferson finished with 11 points.
“Allen played a great game for them,” Krzyzewski said. “Our ball-screen defense in the first half, the normal way we play, the five man isn’t usually as ball friendly as [Allen] is. I thought he really handled the ball screen well.”
The Owls will travel to Washington, D.C to face George Washington on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at email@example.com