Duke (9-1) vs Long Beach State (6-6)
Durham, N.C. - Cameron Indoor Stadium
TV: Fox Sports South / Tip: 7:00 PM EST
Program Vitals Conference: Big West Nickname: 49ers Colors: Blue, Gold, & White Head Coach: Dan Monson (3rd season) Career Record at LBSU: 27-46
Projected Starters: 22 Casper Ware (5-10, 175, So.) – 11.8 ppg, 5.8 apg 21 Larry Anderson (6-5, 200, So.) – 13.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.7 apg 33 Stephan Gilling (6-2, 205, Sr.) – 13.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg 2 Eugene Phelps (6-6, 213, So.) – 9.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg 15 T.J. Robinson (6-8, 210, So.) - 16.7 ppg, 11.1 rpg Key Reserves: 3 Greg Plater (6-1, 180, Jr.) – 8.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg 10 Arturas Lazdaukas (6-7, 240, Sr.) – 2.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg 24 Jesse Woodard (6-1, 195, So.) – 2.4 ppg 34 Kyle Richardson (6-7, 225, Fr.) – 1.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg
Story Lines For Long Beach State:
How They Got Here:
The 49ers opened the season with two victories over smaller programs before losing by 20 to Notre Dame in mid-November. From there it was a series of highly ranked and high major opponents that included a 23 point loss to West Virginia, an eight point loss to Clemson, an 11 point win over UCLA, and a 33 point loss to Texas. After rallying back with two wins over Cal State and Utah State, the 49ers lost in overtime to Loyola Marymount and a 13 point loss to Kentucky in Lexington.
After losing their first game of the year and in the history of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge against Wisconsin, the Blue Devils have won three straight contests including a 35-point thrashing of No. 15 Gonzaga on December 19th.
Fifth-ranked Duke posted a 79-78 win over the No. 15 Long Beach State 49ers on Jan. 5, 1979 in Raleigh, N.C. as part of the Holiday Doubleheader. Kenny Dennard scored 28 points to go along with nine rebounds, while Gene Banks recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
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
LBSU certainly knows the values of "money games" as well as the benefit of playing the nation's top teams. The game against No. 7 Duke will mark the fourth team LBSU has played ranked in the top seven this season. Other games for "The Beach" have included No. 2 Texas, No. 6 West Virginia, and No. 3 Kentucky. When they faced Clemson, the Tigers were ranked No. 24.
It all adds up to LBSU having the third-ranked SOS in the nation according to realtimerpi.com. Only California and Temple have tougher ranked schedules. Duke heads into the game against LBSU with the nation's top-ranked RPI, while West Virginia is fourth, Texas is fifth and Kentucky is 10th. Cal has faced only one team (No. 9 Syracuse) ranked in the top 10 of the RPI, while Temple has faced none. Overall, LBSU's non-league opponents are 97-37 this season, a 72.4 winning percentage.
Young, but Talented Core Group:
With four sophomores in the starting five, the 49ers are certainly young. However, the team has a number of weapons able to make an impact on the game, which gives "The Beach" a balanced attack that requires complete defensive game planning. A good example is the number of players who have earned Big West Conference Players of the Week so far this season. Larry Anderson, T.J. Robinson, Stephan Gilling, and Casper Ware have earned the accolades on Nov 16th, Nov 30th, Dec 14th, and Dec 21st respectively.
Ware, last week's winner, became the second straight 49er to to win the award. Ware was named Big West Conference Player of the Week on Dec. 21, after scoring 19 points and handing out seven assists in a 75-62 win over WAC favorite Utah State last Friday. Ware also flustered WAC Preseason Player of the Year Jared Quayle into a 2-of-11 shooting night.
Gilling won it the week before after averaging 23.0 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game in LBSU's games against Texas and Cal State Monterey Bay. In the Monterey Bay game, Gilling tied a school record making eight 3-pointers on his way to a career-high 28 points.
Robinson was named the Big West Player of the Week on Nov. 30 after putting together a tournament unmatched by any other player in the 76 Classic. Robinson averaged 20 points and 12.3 rebounds per game against West Virginia, Clemson, and UCLA. He led the tournament in both scoring and rebounding while also making more field goals than any other player in the tournament.
Anderson was named the co-Big West Player of the Week after leading Long Beach State to a season-opening 86-65 win over Alaska Anchorage. Anderson (Long Beach, Calif./Jordan HS) earned the award after leading The Beach in scoring, assists and steals in the win. He finished with 18 points, a career-high seven assists and a career-best five steals. Anderson made 5-of-8 shots, 2-of-3 from three and 6-of-8 from the free throw line.
With a relatively small lineup that is heavily guard oriented, The Beach relies heavily on what size they do possess. Namely, sophomore T.J. Robinson who has begun building his resume for Conference Player of the Year honors. The Connecticut product leads the league in rebounding (11.1 rpg) and ranks second in scoring (16.7 ppg, 0.1 behindUCDavis'MarkPayne). Robinson has been even better over the last seven games, averaging 19.3 points and 13.0 rebounds per game, during a stretch that includes games against No. 24 Clemson, No. 2 Texas and No. 3 Kentucky. During that time, Robinson has scored 25 points three times (vs. Clemson, vs. UCLA, Utah State) and 22 points once (at Loyola Marymount), while scoring in double figures in all seven games. During the stretch he also has six double-doubles, with six double-digit rebounding games.
The Perimeter Gunner
The lone senior in the starting five, Stephen Gilling is one of the program's best three point shooters. Ever. A year after finishing second on the single-season 3-pointers made and attempted lists, Gilling is moving up the career charts in both of those categories. He made 5-of-10 against Kentucky. He needs to attempt three 3-pointers against Duke to pass Wiley for eighth and five to pass Aaron Nixon (2005-07) for seventh in three pointers attempted over the course of a career. He needs to make 13 more to move into fifth all-time for makes.
This game could be a trap for the Blue Devils against a team who has little pressure and has shown the ability to play with the nation's best. Duke is coming off a 10 day break and there's a chance that rustiness could play a part in the Devils' performance. Add in the lack of electricity expected in Cameron without the usual student presence, and you have a recipe for the team to struggle. Despite that this is a game that Duke should, frankly, win. It's also a chance for the Blue Devils to get players such as Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee, and Andre Dawkins extended minutes. Look for a tight game midway through the first half before Duke size starts to be the difference
Long Beach State 70