DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—Duke’s youngsters have made their way through the preconference schedule. Still, coach Mike Krzyzewski knows things are about to get a lot tougher for his Blue Devils.
Josh McRoberts had a career-high 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead No. 5 Duke past Temple 73-55 on Tuesday night, the Blue Devils’ final game before starting the Atlantic Coast Conference play.
DeMarcus Nelson scored 14 points and had a career-best 11 rebounds for the Blue Devils (13-1), who extended the nation’s longest nonconference home winning streak to 51 games. Duke won for the seventh straight time in the series with Temple (6-6) and has won nine consecutive games overall.
It’s a good way for the Blue Devils to head into this weekend’s game against Virginia Tech, the start of Duke’s pursuit of an eighth league title in nine years. Duke was picked to finish second in the ACC in the preseason despite losing All-Americans J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams.
“We’re not a well-oiled machine or anything,” Krzyzewski said. “But our kids are doing an incredible job. They’re showing you that they’re young. They show you that they haven’t played as much together at different moments. But usually more of the moments are good.
“Our guys, they really want to be good and they really want to please. They’ve just got a lot of maturity to build up and the league will do that.”
McRoberts, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, is giving the Blue Devils plenty of reason for optimism. He turned in an all-around strong performance, shooting 7-for-12 from the field while tallying four blocks and four assists in 32 minutes.
“I feel comfortable with the ball to make plays,” McRoberts said. “Not necessarily that I’ve got to score every time, but just to make plays.”
McRoberts even had a behind-the-back bounce pass to a cutting Nelson for a layup in the second half.
“He’s not a great passing big man. He’s a great passer,” Krzyzewski said. “Josh wants to pass. It’s almost like you have to make him score. He’s trying to do that more. He sees things like a point guard, but he’s like a point guard on stilts.”
The Blue Devils also got solid contributions from reserves David McClure (career-high 12 rebounds) and 7-foot freshman Brian Zoubek, who scored eight first-half points that helped Duke push ahead for good. Meanwhile, freshman Jon Scheyer led the defensive effort on Temple’s Dionte Christmas, who came in as the Atlantic 10’s leading scorer at 20.8 points per game. Christmas finished with 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting.
“They never let up,” said Christmas, who was hobbled by an ankle injury. “It was real tough for me to get shots up tonight.”
That all added up to the Blue Devils overcoming an early 12-point deficit by holding the Owls to 34 percent shooting and using their size advantage to take a 49-28 rebounding edge.
“We thought we could come out this game and really exploit them in the post and on the boards,” Nelson said. “And the two things we thought we could exploit the most, we did.”
Temple didn’t show any signs of nerves in taking a 16-4 lead in the first 4 1/2 minutes. But things changed quickly once 7-footer Sergio Olmos—Temple’s only player taller than 6-6 in the regular rotation—picked up his third foul midway through the first half with the Owls leading 24-18.
That opened the door for Zoubek, who scored against the 6-5 Christmas on a switch in the paint after an offensive rebound and followed with another inside basket off a feed from Nelson that gave Duke its first lead, 25-24 with 5:49 left in the half. Once Duke got those easy baskets inside, the Blue Devils had the momentum that had abandoned the Owls.
“Whether you’re in man or zone, you still need that helpside defense to take shape,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “We did a poor job of that a couple of times.”
Greg Paulus closed the half with a tough hanging layup and a 3-pointer— Duke’s only 3 in eight attempts for the half—that made it 35-28 at the break.
The Owls got no closer than five points in the early minutes of the second half, with Duke maintaining control of the game the rest of the way. The Blue Devils’ best stretch came midway through the second half, starting when Paulus threw a no-look, behind-the-head pass to a trailing Nelson for a transition dunk.
Then, after hitting a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim before dropping through, McRoberts matched Paulus with his behind-the-back assist to Nelson for a 56-41 lead with 9:05 left.
Duke led by as many as 20 points late.