Preview: Duke (7-1) vs. Holy Cross (6-2)

Previewing the Blue Devils and Crusaders who tip off in Cameron in Wednesday night. The game will be broadcast on espn2.


10 Duke (7-1) vs. Holy Cross (6-2)
Durham, N.C. (Cameron Indoor Stadium)
7:00 p.m., espn2

Program Vitals
Conference: Patriot League
Nickname: Crusaders
Colors: Black and Purple 
Head Coach: Ralph Willard  (8th year)
Career Record at Holy Cross: 140-82 (284-206 Overall)

Projected Starters:
 1 Torey Thomas (5-11, 180, Sr.) – 12.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.6 apg

20 Pat Doherty (5-11, 170, So.) – 7.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.0 apg
 0 Tim Clifford (6-10, 270, Jr.) – 9.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg
10 Keith Simmons (6-5, 205, Sr.) – 17.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.4 spg
21 Alex Vander Baan (6-8, 200, So.) – 6.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg

Key Reserves:
33 Colin Cunningham (6-6, 210, So.) – 3.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg
53 Eric Meister (6-8, 215, Fr.) – 3.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg
43 Greg McCarthy (6-11, 225, So.) – 2.4 ppg, 1.1 rpg
 3 Lawrence Dixon (6-5, 200, So.) - 1.8 ppg, 0.5 rpg

Storylines:

Series History:
Wednesday night's game between the Crusaders and Blue Devils will be just the second time the teams have met. The previous game was a 66-60 Duke victory on January 27, 1982. Currently the Blue Devils have a 48-17 record against teams from the Patriot League.

How They Will Enter The Match Up:
On the heels of their loss to Marquette in the CBE Classic Championship game, Duke has yet to find a groove offensively. The Blue Devils are scoring just 63.3 points per contest in the three games since the loss. However, the defense has been good enough to allow just 50.0 points per contest in three wins over Indiana, Davidson, and #23 Georgetown. Meanwhile, the Crusaders enter Cameron coming off a 69-53 defeat at the hands of Dayton. In Holy Cross' only game against a ranked team this season, the Crusaders fell 72-64 against No. 14 Syracuse on November 27th. The Crusaders' six victories have come against teams such as Fairfield, Hampton, Harvard, and William & Mary.

A Good Backcourt Test for Duke:
The Crusaders' best overall player is 6'4 senior Keith Simmons, a two time All-Patriot League selection. Already named the league's player of the week twice this season, Simmons is now fully healthy after being slowed for much of last season with severe muscle cramps - a problem that has forced him to undergo IV drips at times this season, though he seems to have been able to move past that in the early going this year. Simmons has failed to score 15 or more points just once this season. He's also a very good rebounder for a guard, topping six or more rebounds six times in eight games, including 11 boards against Siena. In the backcourt with Simmons is Torey Thomas, the team's speedy point guard. Thomas led the team in assists last year and is doing more of the same this year. He's also a good on the ball defender, averaging 2.1 steals per game (second to Simmons' 2.4 per game). Despite being just 5'11, Thomas isn't afraid to mix it up on the boards either - he's already recorded five or more rebounds in four of the eight games. His best game to date came against Syracuse when he scored 6 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and handed out 7 assists against just 2 turnovers. The third guard in the starting lineup, 5'11 Pat Doherty, was the ROY in the Patriot league in 2005. However, he missed most of last season with injuries.

A Veteran Rotation:
In addition to Thomas and Simmons, the Crusaders have several experienced players in their usual rotation. In fact only one freshman, 6'8, 215lbs SF Eric Meister, sees any meaningful minutes. The sophomore class offers a big help, as four second year players crack the top eight. One of the best players is center Tim Clifford, a shot blocking specialist that started the entire second half of the season a year ago. One thing to keep an eye on with Clifford is his shooting ability. Despite his size, the big man has shown the ability to knock down perimeter jumpers in the past, but has struggled from beyond the arc this season.

Sophomore Captains Looking to Build:
After an unproductive first half against Georgetown, sophomores Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus stepped up their play against the Hoyas and pushed Duke to a victory on Saturday night in Cameron. Paulus scored all 13 of his points in the second half, while McRoberts added 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. Duke will need the duo to use that performance as a spring board going forward, especially with the ACC season looming on the horizon.

Who's Next?:
With the victory over Georgetown, the Blue Devils have now won 46 straight games against non-conference opponents - the second longest streak in the country. Oklahoma currently enjoys the nation's longest winning streak of that kind, having won 49 straight games over non-Big 12 foes. Duke is a remarkable 176-3 over the last 179 games against opponents not from the ACC at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Freshmen Playing Like Freshmen:
Through eight games the Blue Devils have relied heavily on their highly touted freshman class to carry the scoring load. Predictably, Duke has struggled at time on the offensive end because of it. Guard Jon Scheyer has been the steadiest of the four new comers, averaging just under 10 points per game while playing more than 30 per. After a strong start to the season, power forward Lance Thomas' numbers have taken a dip. Thomas is averaging just 2.6 points and 1.0 rebounds per game over the last three. Center Brian Zoubek continues to log minutes, but his production has hinged largely on the style of play of Duke's opponents. Against Indiana and Georgetown the 7'2 Zoubek scored a combined four points, while pulling down five rebounds. Meanwhile, small forward Gerald Henderson has rebounded well over the previous two game (7 boards in just 35 minutes total), but has failed to show off his ability to drive to the basket, scoring just three points against the Hoosiers and Hoyas.

Owning the Boards:
In eight games the Blue Devils have only been out-rebounded once (Indiana). For the season Duke is averaging 37.0 rebounds per contest, while opponents are pulling down just over 29 boards per contest. Duke's defense has been just as good, holding opponents to 36% shooting from the field. That defense and rebounding prowess has served Coach K's group well as Duke's field goal percentage has taken a big dip over the past few games, dropping from 58% to just 47.9% in that time.

He's #10. He's #10
Coach K now has 760 career victories and is now in sole possession of 10th place in NCAA history for most wins. He is third among active coaches. Ninth on the list is Arizona's Lute Olson, who with his victory over Illinois today now has 765 wins. Eighth place is Henry Iba with 767. At Duke, Coach K has 687 victories, seventh most all-time (Don Haskins, UTEP, 719).

Prediction:
Duke 81
Holy Cross 59


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