Duke opponents might see something different from senior center Brian Zoubek. And it's not only his beard.
"I've been through a lot here and to have some consistent success is a really good feeling," Zoubek said.
For a 7-foot-1 player who could have been pushed aside as a new crop of front court players arrived to carry the Blue Devils, Zoubek instead has shown signs of emerging as a key player in the middle.
"I feel like I'm trying to establish myself," he said. "I obviously had some struggles early in my career."
Zoubek also was bordering on exhaustion -- but for good reason after a 25-minute stint against Long Beach State. "It feels like it," he said of his longest college outing, "especially at the end of the game when those seconds seemed longer.
"I was just feeling comfortable out there. I've just really fallen into it really well. I played a little bit more than I usually do. I had to play 100 percent the whole time. That is the goal, to get out there and be able to stay out there."
Zoubek was used for only 17 minutes two nights later against Pennsylvania. "It's how he has played," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said this week, then providing a specific contribution that stuck in his mind. "He and Lance (Thomas) pretty much won the Connecticut game for us."
- Mason Plumlee said he's back to 100 percent after a preseason broken wrist. Wearing no tape on his wrist for the first time this season in Thursday, the freshman forward established season highs in points (19), rebounds (seven) and minutes (21) against Penn. Prior to the game, he had 14 points total in his five-game career. "They've been telling me to play harder ever since I've been here," Plumlee said. "I've been trying to take that on offense and defense and apply it to the game."
- Duke's streak of home court non-league victories reached 76 games before the calendar turned to 2010. That's the longest streak in the country, with the last loss coming Feb. 26, 2000, against St. John's. The Blue Devils have one more non-conference visitor this season and that comes Feb. 25 when Tulsa is the guest. So the streak will be nearly 10 years old by that date.
- ON THE SPOT: The Blue Devils might need to see how they react to a close game because it has been a while. They've been in one game decided by less than nine points, and that resulted in their only loss in a game at Wisconsin. That also marked the team's only true road game, with the next one to come Jan. 9 at Georgia. They'll want to prove that they're unfazed in road environments because their neutral-court games have had some favorable crowd make-ups.
- QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our talent level is obviously greater than theirs," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "If we're playing hard and they're playing hard, we should win and we should win by a significant margin." -- coach Mike Krzyzewski after his team won 114-55 against Pennsylvania, signaling the most points ever given up by Penn and the largest margin of defeat for the Quakers.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: The Blue Devils were rolling by the time they reached their ACC opener against Clemson, winning their previous four games by more than 20 points. They're intent on upholding their status as league favorites after a bit of a drought on the regular-season championship chart. They had lost their last two meetings against Clemson, but neither of those meetings came in Durham.
- Usual Starters: G Jon Scheyer, G Nolan Smith, C Miles Plumlee, F Kyle Singler, F Lance Thomas.
- Key Subs – G Andre Dawkins, F Mason Plumlee, C Brian Zoubek, F Ryan Kelly.
- Duke 84, Long Beach State 63
- Duke 114, Penn 55
- Duke 74, Clemson 53
- at Iowa State, Wednesday, Jan. 6, in Chicago
- at Georgia Tech, Saturday, Jan. 9
- vs. Boston College, Wednesday, Jan. 13
- vs. Wake Forest, Sunday, Jan. 17
- at North Carolina State, Wednesday, Jan. 20
IN FOCUS: The Blue Devils take another step outside the conference after their ACC opener to play Iowa State in Chicago. It's a neutral-site game, but it's set up as a homecoming event for Duke senior Jon Scheyer, who's from Northbrook, Ill. He's a four-year player with the Blue Devils. It's also a trip to coach Mike Krzyzewski's hometown.
- G Jon Scheyer has moved into special territory by eclipsing the 1,500-point, 400-rebound, 250-assist, 150-steal and 200-made level for 3-pointers. He's the first Duke player in history to achieve all those benchmarks and the senior guard is headed for top-20 territory in career scoring.
- C Brian Zoubek averaged more than seven rebounds a game through the first 10 games. He's the only non-starter in the ACC to be in the top 20 in the league in rebounding. He took a team-leading 7.7 rebounds per game into conference play.
- G Nolan Smith said he wanted to meet the father of Penn guard Malcolm Washington. Actor Denzel Washington sat courtside during a game at Duke.
- "I'm going to get dressed here quick and see if I can catch him on the way out," said Smith, who has scored in double figures in the first 10 games in which he played this season.