Previewing Duke v. UCLA

The Blue Devils and Bruins will face off on Thursday night in New York City in Duke's last contest before Christmas.

Lackluster defensive efforts were more than enough for Duke and UCLA to get by lesser opponents in their previous games.

Neither will likely be as fortunate with a repeat performance Thursday night when the eighth-ranked Blue Devils and the Bruins meet at Madison Square Garden in a matchup of two of the nation's top offensive teams.

Duke (8-2) averages 86.0 points on 51.7 percent field-goal shooting while UCLA has been even better, scoring 89.1 points while shooting 54.3 percent.

Despite 12 days passing since a 79-69 victory over then-No. 22 Michigan on Dec. 3, the Blue Devils showed little rust on offense in an 85-66 win against Gardner-Webb on Monday. They shot 50.0 percent from the field for the second straight game and were 9 of 22 from 3-point range.

Freshman sensation Jabari Parker scored 21 -- already his eighth 20-plus point effort -- while Quinn Cook scored 16 with nine assists and Andre Dawkins contributed 18 points as a reserve.

Duke has had a 20-point scorer in each of its first 10 games for the first time since 2000-01, when the team won its third of four national titles under coach Mike Krzyzewski. Parker and Rodney Hood comprise one of the nation's highest-scoring duos, with Parker averaging 22.0 points while Hood is adding 18.9 per game.

But the Blue Devils were shaky defensively, allowing Gardner-Webb to shoot 54.0 percent, including 62.5 percent in the first 20 minutes.

"I think when we get it going offensively like that, we kind of get lazy on defense," Cook said of his team which hit 17 of its first 23 shots. "We had it going early so we got lazy. But at some point, we've got to just get it out of our system."

Opponents are shooting 45.7 percent against Duke on the season, though Krzyzewski attributed some of the blame to the long layoff.

"You don't stop playing for two weeks and not have some slippage," said Krzyzewski, whose Duke teams are 23-8 at Madison Square Garden, winning 15 of the last 18. "But overall I was pleased with our team."

The Blue Devils own a 9-6 advantage -- 7-1 under Krzyzewski -- in a series featuring two schools that have combined for 15 national titles.

UCLA (9-1) claimed a 95-71 win over Prairie View A&M on Saturday, bouncing back from a poor offensive performance in an 80-71 loss at Missouri a week earlier. After shooting a season-low 37.7 percent against the Tigers, the Bruins hit 64.2 percent of their shots -- the school's highest mark since connecting on 65.9 percent in a win at Washington State on Feb. 18, 2010. It was the fourth time they've shot 60.7 percent or better this season.

Leading scorer Jordan Adams (21.2 ppg) scored 11 of his 18 points in the first half as UCLA took a 50-24 lead into halftime. The Bruins were then outscored 47-45 in the second half.

"I appreciate the guys' focus to start the game. We were lackadaisical in the second half," coach Steve Alford said. "I was pleased with the way we rebounded and defended. Our defense in the second half got lazy. We're a young team. We must learn and mature."

UCLA has lost four of its last six regular-season games against top 10 teams on neutral courts, including the program's most recent with Duke, an 84-73 setback in Indianapolis on Nov. 30, 2002.

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