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November 9, 2007

Blue Devils blow past NCCU

The Duke Blue Devils cruised to a 121-56 victory over North Carolina Central Friday behind a combined 51 points from their freshmen in the 2007-08 season opener.

Duke's three highly touted freshmen, which were surprisingly led by Taylor King, helped set the tone from the very start of the game. Each one of Duke's newcomers hit the floor with confidence, looking as though they were longtime veterans.

King, who paced the Blue Devils with a game-high 20 points, lived up to his billing as he connected on five-of-seven three pointers in just 19 minutes of play. In addition to his contributions on the scoreboard, King grabbed six rebounds, handed out three assists and blocked two shots.

Prior to King's onslaught of three's in the second half, Kyle Singler had almost unnoticeably been leading the Blue Devils in both scoring and rebounding. The freshman standout finished just two rebounds shy of a double-double as he scored 15 points and pulled down eight boards to kickoff his collegiate career.

Not to be outdone by his classmates, point guard Nolan Smith picked up his offense in the second half, as he poured in 16 points for the game on five-of-eight shooting and two-of-three from behind the arc. Smith also dished out four assists.

Though the story of the evening was clearly the play of the freshmen, the Blue Devils received solid performances from several other players.

The Blue Devils, who have employed an up-tempo style of play into their system this season, showed the benefits of going 10 deep, as seven scored in double figures.

Gerald Henderson continued to look impressive, as he added 15 points and five rebounds to the Duke stat sheet.

While a lot of things were certainly going right for the Blue Devils, there were a few areas in which they struggled. The most glaring of Duke's troubles was the ability to protect the ball and stay away from some spot erratic play.

NCCU doubled and trapped the ball handler at every opportunity for much of the game, and though Duke handled it for the most part, they did turn the ball over a few too many times. Additionally, the Blue Devils turned it over several times in transition by trying to do a little too much with the ball. By the end of the night, Duke had totaled 18 turnovers, while forcing 26.

With much tougher opponents on the schedule down the road, Duke must find a cure for their turnover problem.

Senior captain DeMarcus Nelson turned the ball over four times on his own and struggled at times as his offensive play became out of control at moments in the game. Despite a 4-for-11 shooting night, he still managed 10 points and eight rebounds.

North Carolina Central, who simply didn't have the depth or talent to compete, did have a few positives to take out of their first ever game as a Division I institution. Guard Bryan Ayala connected on three consecutive three pointers in the second half on his way to 18 points. However, Ayala lived up to his reputation as he struggled to protect the ball turning it over five times on the night.

Central's Charles Futrell, a former football standout, played well in his season opener, scoring 17 points and grabbing six rebounds.

For Duke, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek rotated throughout the game, manning the primary post position. Thomas took just three shots all night, but did manage to find his way to the free thrown line for five shots. Though his rebounding total (2) does not support his effort, Thomas was very active when in the game. In fact, the Duke big man led the squad in steals with four on the night.

Zoubek had a few moments in which he played aggressively and strong, but he continued to play more on the passive side. The seven-footer missed on several rebounding opportunities, simply because he didn't go after it hard enough. He also showed too much finesse in his offensive moves, evidenced by a missed shot all alone around the basket. Instead of taking it strong, Zoubek looked for the light lay-up and missed it as a result.

For all of the bad by Zoubek, he did show some signs of improvement. For the most part, he did keep the ball above his head and looked to make quicker moves to the basket. He finished the night with six points and nine rebounds.

Greg Paulus had a fairly quiet night, as he scored just five points on three shot attempts and handed out four assists. Martynas Pocius added 10 points on three-for-five shooting, while Jon Scheyer scored 13 points. He was three-for-four from three point range.

Ten Duke players played double figure minutes, while Jordan Davidson came in for the final four minutes of the game. Davidson scored two points, placing everyone that participated in the scoring column.

Duke shot 57 percent from three point range (16-of-28) and connected on 27-of-32 free throws (84 percent).

Duke's next game will be against New Mexico State at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Mon., Nov. 12, at 7 p.m.


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