Preview: Duke (9-1) vs. Kent State (5-3)

Previewing the Blue Devils and Golden Flash who tip off on Tuesday night in Cameron Indoor. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.


6 Duke (9-1) vs. Kent State (5-3)
Durham, N.C. - Cameron Indoor Stadium
7:00 p.m., ESPN

Program Vitals
Conference: Mid-American Conference
Nickname: Golden Flashes
Colors: Blue and Gold
Head Coach: Jim Christian  (5th year)
Career Record at George Mason: 94-43 (25-9; NCAA First Round in 2006)

Projected Starters:
11 Jordan Mincy (5-10, 165, So.) ˆ 4.3 ppg, 3.9 apg
25 Armon Gates (6-1, 185, Sr.) ˆ 12.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 100% FT
 4 Issac Knight (6-7, 220, So.) - 6.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg
21 Mike Scott (6-7, 180, Jr.) - 10.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg
34 Julian Sullinger (6-5, 220, So.) - 7.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg

Key Reserves:
 2 Chris Singletary (6-3, 225, Fr.) - 6.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.3 apg
 5 Omni Smith (6-3, 175, Sr.) - 11.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.7 apg
22 Mike McKee (6-4, 175, Fr.) - 4.6 ppg
32 Rodriguez Sherman (6-1, 175, Fr.) - 5.1 ppg

Storylines:

How They Got Here: Duke enters Saturday's game with an 9-1 overall record and riding a five game winning streak. During those four games the Blue Devils have a +13.6 average margin of victory. Since trouncing the Wildcats, DUke has steadily increased their margin of victory with wins of 3, 9, 12, and 16 points over Indiana, Georgetown, Holy Cross, and George Mason. Meanwhile the Golden Flashes enter the contest with a 5-3 overall record. The last game was a 79-69 victory over IPFW in which the Kent State bench accounted for 43 of the team's 79 points. In the only other game against a top 25 opponent, the Flashes fell to then #4 Ohio State 81-59.

Series History:
The Blue Devils lead the all-time series with the Golden Flashes 1-0. The last time the teams met was back in December of 1974 with Duke prevailing 83-65 on a neutral court. Duke is 5-1 all-time against current members of the Mid-American Conference.

Guard Play Powers Kent State:
Of the top nine players in the Golden Flash rotation, five are true guards, while the other four are more suited as wing players than interior options. In fact the only two players on the roster taller than 6-foot-7 are a pair of freshmen who haven't played any meaningful minutes all season. Led by senior duo Armon Gates and Omni Smith, the Flashes prefer a game that lends itself to a number of scoring opportunities. Averaging 56.0 field goals per game, the problem has been finishing as coach Christian continues to search for new options after last year's team lost it's top three scoring options.

Great Scott!:
Though concentrate primarily on backcourt scoring to pilot the ship, the Flashes do have some skill on the interior in the form of 6-foot-7, 220lbs Issac Knight and 6-foot-7, 180 pound athlete Mike Scott.

Scott has earned the starting role thanks to a very high level of athleticism, lenght (he has a 7 foot wingspan) and quickness around the rim, which allows him to battle bigger players. If you want to know how Kent State will fair against their opponent, there has been no better barometer than Scott's statline this season. In the five games the Golden Flashes have won, the junior is averaging 14.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and shot 59% from the floor. In the three defeats, Scott has averaged just 4.0 points, 3.5 rebouds, and shot 17% from the floor.

Meanwhile Knight has been content to do the dirtywork inside for the Flashes. He's got an additional 40 pounds on Scott, and that extra strength coupled with some decent athleticism has allowed him to also become a force around the basket - where he excels at picking up garbage baskets and putbacks.

Depth Proved To Be A Problem In Only Other Test:
When an NCAA Tournament team from a mid-major conference loses its top three scoring threats as the Flashes did a season ago, it's hard to maintain the same level of success the following year. However for a half it seemed as though Kent State was still capable of going toe to toe against the big boys. After 20 minutes of play against Ohio State on the Buckeyes home floor, the Flashes found themselves trailing the then #4 team in the country by just three points in the championship game of the BCA Classic.

Kent State actually led for much of that first half thanks to their slashing attack and high pressure trapping defense. However, the lack of experienced depth eventually caught up with them as OSU pulled away steadily after halftime. Still, the point was proven to anyone watching film - the Flashes have the potential to sneak up on any team that is loafing.

Getting Back In the Swing Of Things:
After dispatching George Mason at home, the Blue Devils will have been off the court for nearly 10 days as exam period arrived. After hosting Kent State, the Blue Devils will travel to New York to face off against Gonzaga in Madison Square Garden on the 21st. As many Blue Devil fans will remember, the Zags defeated North Carolina earlier this year in that building in the Preseason NIT.

Building On The Last Game:
Through their first nine games the Blue Devils had been dreadful when it came to valuing the basketball. In fact the Blue Devils had turned the ball over an average of 17 times per game leading up to the match up with the Patriots. However, Duke committed a season low 11 TOs in that game, while logging a season best 21 assists led by Josh McRoberts (8) and Jon Scheyer (6).

Getting Defensive:
The one thing that has remained constant for the Blue Devils through 10 games has been the high level of play on the defensive end - especially at home where the Patriots' 53 points was the most allowed by the hosts all season long. Duke has held five of its eight opponents under 50 points at home while Indiana (51), Georgetown (52) and George Mason (53) have eclipsed the half-century mark.

Nation's Best Win Streak:
The Blue Devils have the nation's longest home court winning streak against non-conference foes. Duke has beaten 48 straight non-ACC foes in Cameron. The next closest streak is 37 straight non-conference home wins by Utah State.

Prediction:

Duke 76
Kent State 57


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