The Blue Devils were bound to receive a significant offensive boost at some point from senior forward Kyle Singler, and it finally occurred Feb. 23.
Singler's 28-point outing against Temple resulted from his ability to score close to the basket. He had been working more on the perimeter this season, and that had enabled the Blue Devils to excel in the backcourt. But he has begun going back to moves that take him closer to the rim.
He shot 10-for-19 from the field, launching only one 3-point shot (and missing it). Singler often is matched up with a smaller defender, so he can take advantage of those situations by taking the ball to the basket.
"He's going to fight every game, and (this game) he got in there and made some shots," teammate Seth Curry said.
Singler had scored a total of 41 points in the four previous games combined. The Temple game was the first time in six games that Singler led the Blue Devils in scoring.
Duke likely will need his contributions Feb. 26 at Virginia Tech in a return to ACC competition.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE:
The Blue Devils like to mix in a late-season nonconference game so they see an unfamiliar team close to the postseason. "It's nice to play a different team than you're used to," senior F Kyle Singler said. As it turns out, Temple was the second first-time opponent in a row on the Blue Devils' schedule because they faced Georgia Tech on Feb. 20 for the only time this season. And the team's next two games come against ACC foes Virginia Tech and Clemson -- and those will be first meetings as well in the conference's unbalanced schedule. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said he likes how facing an opponent such as Temple in February can help his team in the coming weeks.
--Duke stepped out of conference play Feb. 23, and senior F Kyle Singler, who had been slumping on offense, stepped up his production by pouring in 28 points (his second-highest total of the season) as the Blue Devils pulled away from visiting Temple 78-61. It was the first game since the Blue Devils returned to a No. 1 national ranking, and Duke eventually overwhelmed the No. 24 Owls, who surrendered a few momentum-building transition baskets to Duke in the second half. The Blue Devils shot 54.8 percent in the second half for their highest-scoring half in four games.
--Through Feb. 23, Duke had won 86 consecutive non-conference home games across a span that stretches nearly 11 years. This season, Duke has won 16 games at home, marking the third season in a row it has reached that win total at Cameron Indoor Stadium. There's one home game remaining, when Clemson visits next week.
--Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was assessed his first technical foul of the season Feb. 20 in the first half against Georgia Tech. After that, the Blue Devils weren't called for a foul for the remaining 10:16 of the half. "There was a lot going on," Duke G Nolan Smith said. "It got us going. ... That's a sign he's fighting for us."
--The Blue Devils are becoming less reliant on long-range shooting. For the second game in a row, they launched only 16 shots from 3-point range on Feb. 20. They've had only three games when they've taken fewer than that number of 3-pointers.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- The number of times sophomore F Mason Plumlee had fouled out this season after his disqualification with 4:42 remaining against Georgia Tech on Feb. 20. The rest of his teammates had fouled out six times combined.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I just think we're a good team and we have to keep winning." -- Coach Mike Krzyzewski, on the possibility that the Blue Devils could return to the No. 1 national ranking this week, which they did.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Virginia Tech, Feb. 26
KEY MATCHUPS: This is the only meeting of the season between teams expected to be at the top of the ACC standings. Duke will look to apply pressure on the backcourt, which is a strength for Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils will need to be solid enough in the interior so Virginia's Jeff Allen and Victor Davila don't get rolling.
FUTURES MARKET: The Blue Devils are making taking care of the ball an issue after matching a season high with 18 turnovers Wednesday night at Virginia. With senior G Nolan Smith giving up some of the ball-handling responsibilities, it has opened the possibility for some more slipups with the ball from players unaccustomed to playing with the ball in their hands regularly. It's a topic that's bound to be addressed as the Blue Devils are facing teams willing to slow down the pace and aim for fewer possessions in games. That makes each possession even more important for the Blue Devils.
--Sophomore G Seth Curry said he's looking forward to the Feb. 26 game at Virginia Tech. His father, Dell Curry, was a former Virginia Tech star before his NBA career. Yet Seth Curry said Duke's motivation to maintain a grip on first place in the ACC is the overriding theme going into the game.
--Sophomore G Andre Dawkins was the fourth player off the bench Feb. 23 against Temple. The one-time starter has fallen on the Blue Devils' depth chart, but he might have improved his stock by draining a 3-pointer shortly after entering the game and ending up 2-for-2 from long range, making his lone second-half attempt. Yet he played a season-low amount of minutes for the second game in a row, this time logging seven minutes.