Duke (7-1) vs Gardner Webb (3-4)
Durham, N.C. - Cameron Indoor Stadium
TV: ESPN2 / Tip: 7:00 PM EST
Program Vitals Conference: Big South Nickname: Runnin' Bulldogs Colors: Red & White Head Coach: Rick Scruggs (15th season) Career Record at GWU: 194-201
Projected Starters: 24 Brian McNair (6-1, 165, Fr.) – 5.0 ppg, 2.6 apg 4 Grayson Flittner (6-0, 200, Sr.) – 10.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.1 apg 42 Auryn MacMillan (6-8, 235, Sr.) – 9.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg 5 C.J. Hailey (6-1, 190, Sr.) – 9.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg 2 Joshua Henley (6-3, 215, So.) - 5.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg Key Reserves: 3 David Brown (6-2, 180, So.) – 5.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg 12 Anton Silver (6-2, 175, Sr.) – 5.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg 35 Jonathan Moore (6-4, 190, Jr.) – 7.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg 15 Stephon Johnson (6-6, 215, Fr.) – 5.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg
Story Lines For Gardner Webb:
How They Got Here:
After opening the season with three straight victories, the Runnin' Bulldogs have lost four straight games - three of them by an average of nearly 22 points per game including a 95-66 beatdown at the hands of UNC-Charlotte in their last game out.
On the flip side the Blue Devils began the season looking every bit the top team in the ACC, and arguably a top 5 squad. However, a shaky performance in the loss to Wisconsin followed by a blue collar victory over St. John's has given life, once again, to the doubters.
This will be the first time the two programs have met on the hardwood. The Blue Devils have won 15 straight games and are 28-9 all-time against teams currently in the Big South conference. Duke is 2-0 against the Big South this season with wins over Coastal Carolina and Radford.
Both teams enter the game relatively healthy. Blue Devil freshman Mason Plumlee continues to rehab and strengthen his left wrist which held him out of the season's first six games.
Testing Themselves Against the Best
Unlike the world of college football, the high major programs aren't frightened of playing the best of the mid-majors. That attitude has always served the Bulldogs, who routinely get shots at the nation's elite programs. Nothing has changed this year as GWU is he only mid-major program in the country heading into this season to have regular season games against three of ESPN.com's preseason top-10 programs – No. 3 Texas (Dec. 29), No. 5 North Carolina (Nov. 23) and No. 10 Duke (Dec. 15). Those close to the Bulldog program believe it's the toughest out of conference schedule the team has faced. Ever.
But They Have To Take Care of the Ball:
Gardner-Webb suffered through its worst game handling the basketball as an NCAA Division I member on Nov. 28 vs. Western Carolina. The Runnin' Bulldogs committed an alarming 30 turnovers in the game, which led directly to 41 points by the Catamounts in what wound up a 75-59 loss for GWU. The ‘Dogs are 0-3 this season when they have more than 20 turnovers.
Little Big Man:
Though he measures just 6-foot-3, sophomore Joshua Henley has the reputation of a tenacious rebounder. A season ago he proved that to be true, leading all freshmen in rebounding. The Nashville, Tenn., native led GWU and all the freshman at the NCAA Division I level in 2008-2009 with 10.3 caroms per game – and found his scoring touch more regularly down the stretch. So far in 2009-10, he has picked up where he left off, averaging 9.4 boards per game. Henley had 18 points and 13 rebounds in the team's Nov. 21 win over Methodist, hitting 9-of-10 shots from the field with four offensive tip ins. He also hit the boards hard vs. No. 11 North Carolina on Nov. 23, pulling down 10 rebounds in that game..
Big Little Guard
Freshman guard Thomas Staton (6-6, 200) is be the tallest point guard to suit up for Gardner-Webb during the Division I era, and perhaps ever. The Southfield, Mich., native is a versatile player, capable of playing any of three positions on the college level. He was recruited as a point guard, and has played well enough so far this season in spots off the bench.
Watch Out For:
Senior center Auryn MacMillan, who spent his summer practicing and playing against some of the world's best young amateur players -- suiting up for the Australian team at the 2009 World University Games in Belgrade. Having earned support for preseason all-conference honors from the media, the big Aussie quadrupled his previous double-figure scoring games for a single season in 2008-2009 – going for at least 10 points in 12 games. In his previous two seasons, MacMillan had only accomplished that feat three times overall. MacMillan has been strong in five starts this season, averaging 9.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game in just 21.1 minutes.
The Blue Devils should win this game. They have a lot more size and a lot more talent on paper. Garner Webb has struggled taking care of the basketball this year, and that should play into the Blue Devils' hands. Meanwhile Duke will be looking to get junior Kyle Singler going. Though his point production has been up, Singler has struggled mightily from the field in recent weeks. Look for Garner Webb to jump out in the first little bit, but a Duke wave should have the outcome decided before halftime.
Garner Webb 64