Preview: Duke (11-1) v. San Jose St (1-10)

Previewing the Blue Devils and Spartans who tip off in Cameron on Sunday night. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports South.


5 Duke (11-1) vs. San Jose State (1-10)
Durham, N.C. - Cameron Indoor Stadium
9:00 p.m., ESPN2

Program Vitals
Conference: Western Athletic Conference
Nickname: Spartans
Colors: Blue and Gold
Head Coach:  George Nessman  (2nd year)
Career Record at San Jose State: 7-35 

Projected Starters:
23 Carlton Spencer (6-2, 180, Sr.) - 12.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 7.0 apg
11 Darion Goins (6-3, 200, Fr.) – 6.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg 
50 Menelik Barbary (6-9, 230, Fr.) – 12.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg
11 Tim Pierce (6-7, 215, So.) – 11.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 100% FT
21 Devonte Thomas (6-4, 195, So.) – 6.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg

Key Reserves:
15 Kerry Wooldridge (6-8, 220, Fr.) – 4.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg
20 Kevin Buggs (6-1, 165, Fr.) – 4.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.4 apg
22 Harry Brown (6-5, 220, Fr.) – 6.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg
24 Jamon Hill (5-11, 175, Jr.) – 9.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.8 apg
44 Lance Holloway (6-7, 215, Jr.) - 2.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg

Storylines:

How They Got Here: Duke enters Saturday's game with an 11-1 overall record and riding a seven game winning streak. The most recent victory was a seven point victory over Gonzaga in New York City's Madison Square Garden in which the Blue Devils rallied from an early nine point deficit behind a brillant performance from Josh McRoberts and a career night from Greg Paulus. Things haven't been nearly as good for the Spartans, who enter the game with a 1-10 overall record, on the heels of a 104-77 loss to Cal State Fullerton in their last game. On the whole the Spartans have lost four straight games by an average of 14.0 points per game.

Series History:
Thursday's game will be the first time the two programs have met. The Blue Devils have a 2-0 overall record against teams from the Western Athletic Conference with one win each over Hawaii and Fresno State.

A rough go for the Spartans:
Though losing hasn't been anything new for the SJSU program, which has won just 18 games over the past three seasons...total. What is most troubling is the frequency of which this group of Spartans continually finds itself on the wrong end of the scoreboard hasn't been seen in over a decade. The 1-10 start is the worst in school history since teh 1994-1995 season when the Spartans logged 1-19 record in their first 20 contests.

Searching For Something:
The Spartans have 12 players on the roster averaging 8.7 or more minutes per game. And only six of those players have appeared in every contest as Coach Nessman continues to experiment with a team made up of players that have continually suffered defeats throughout their college career. Recently he gave Devonte Thomas his first collegiate start against Long Beach State. The freshman responded with a double-double (15 & 10), and has been a starter ever since averaging 17.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and shooting 68.8 percent (15-of-22) from the field as a starter. He also has the team's best field goal percentage figure of 58.7 percent heading into the Duke game.

It's just one example of many for Nessman. "We showed more positive signs over the last couple of games, but we're still, obviously, not there yet," said the head coach.

Spartans Could Make History:
In the last 40 seasons, the Spartans have two victories over top-five nationally-ranked teams. In the 1969 season, San Jose State posted a 73-69 win over #2-ranked Santa Clara University, 73-69. On January 5, 1973, the Spartans knocked off Jerry Tarkanian's #3-ranked Long Beach State squad, 68-61. However, #5-Duke is the highest-ranked team San Jose State has faced since losing a 71-49 decision to #12- Utah on February 18, 1999.

Road Warriors:
The Spartans will certainly earn their frequent flyer miles over the coming days as they will play a triple header of road games before returning home. The Duke-Louisiana Tech-New Mexico State road trip matches the third longest road trip for a San Jose State men's basketball team in school history. The Spartans will spend eight consecutive nights in three different hotels before returning to San Jose on January 7.

Blue Devils Looking To Avoid a Trap:
Though a victory is all but a given accoring to any and all analysts you may poll, the Spartans present another type of challenge for this young Duke team. With an opponent that is so overmatched talent wise, Duke must continue to work within the offensive scheme and not fall into bad habbits. Through 12 games the Duke offense has been offensive, averaging an ACC worst 68.5 point per game. This is due in large part to a surprisingly slower style of play, and bad predisposition to turning the ball over (16.2 per game). In fact the Blue Devils are logging 1.2 turnovers for every assist logged this season. This starts with point guard Greg Paulus, who struggled throughout the early season with injuries and poor decision making. However, Paulus has improved his assist to turnover ration in the last three games, logging 11 assists against 4 turnovers.

On the Flip Side...
The Duke defense has been extremely good throughout the season. The Blue Devils hold teams to just 53.5 points per game and 38.4% from the field. The most recent exhibit of this defensive prowess was shutting down the high powered offense of Gonzaga, as Duke held them to just 54 points - their lowest output of the season by 13 points. In their previous three games against ranked opponents (#2 North Carolina, #25 Texas, and #8 Washington) the Zags averaged 88.7 points per game while winning all three games.

Prediction:

Duke 86
San Jose State 49


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