Singler leads No. 1 Duke past No. 24 Temple 78-61
DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—Things are getting back to normal at Duke: The Blue Devils are ranked No. 1 again, and points came in bunches for Kyle Singler.
Singler broke out of a slump by scoring 28 points, and Duke marked its return to the top spot in the national rankings by beating No. 24 Temple 78-61 on Wednesday night.
“He was just not to be denied,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said of Singler.
Nolan Smith finished with 15 points and Mason Plumlee added 13 rebounds to help the ACC-leading Blue Devils (26-2) dodge a late-season nonconference letdown and pick up a significant victory in their return to the top spot in the polls. Duke used a huge run that bridged the halves to win its eighth straight overall and extend a pair of notable winning streaks at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Singler equaled a career high for field goals while going 10 of 19 in his most productive game since matching a career high with 30 points at Oregon on Nov. 27. This time, he helped Duke win its 35th straight game at Cameron and its 86th in a row there against nonconference teams—both NCAA bests.
The senior had labored through a few recent pedestrian performances—at least by the lofty standards that come with being the Most Outstanding Player at last year’s Final Four.
Singler, a 16-point scorer for his career, was held to 3-of-17 shooting two weeks ago by rival North Carolina. Most recently, he had a career-worst 2-point outing last week against Virginia, and was just 5 of 14 last time out against Georgia Tech.
“You’ve just got to not focus on not shooting the ball well, because if you just focus on that, it does hinder other parts of your game,” Singler said.
That certainly didn’t happen this time: He held Ramone Moore to eight points, nearly half his average.
“It was obvious on offense what (Singler) was doing,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Kyle’s just been doing that (on defense) all year. He’s been an amazing player. … He has the determination and the stick-to-it-iveness to defend and work through screens while still doing his offensive game.”
The noted 3-point sharpshooter didn’t feel the need to test his touch from long range; he missed his only attempt from that distance. Instead, he did most of his work inside, attacking the rim repeatedly and aggressively.
“I just felt like I could get good position on my defender,” Singler said. “The bigs were actually passing the ball to me, so I got good post entries and … just kept getting the ball and putting it back up.”
And by the time he checked out of this one in the final 2 minutes, the Cameron Crazies were chanting his name.
Lavoy Allen finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds, but Temple (21-6) had its eight-game winning streak snapped.
“Two things happened. Our offense wasn’t as good as we needed to be,” Dunphy said. “Then, when we did have bad shot selection, they ran it down our throats sometimes on some easy run-outs. And then Singler, we obviously did not do a great job on Singler today.”
Singler’s big night came at quite the opportune time, in the next-to-last home game of his storied career and with the Blue Devils playing for the first time since reclaiming the No. 1 ranking they relinquished in mid-January.
For about a half, their nearly 11-year winning streak against non-ACC teams at Cameron was put to the test by a Temple team that frustrated Duke with tough team defense that in particular seemed to bother Smith, the ACC’s leading scorer who was held to 5-of-17 shooting.
Seth Curry’s 3 with 1 second left before the halftime buzzer started the 23-11 run that gave the Blue Devils their first double-figure lead, then put them in total control.
Curry connected from long range 1 1/2 minutes into the second half to make it a 10-point game, Smith followed with five consecutive points and Plumlee finished the burst with a dunk in the post and an alley-oop from Curry to stretch the lead to 51-35 with 12 1/2 minutes remaining. Temple didn’t get closer than 12 after that.
“They got a lot of run-outs and things like that, and when they run out the ball, they get 3-pointers,” Allen said. “A couple of times, we stopped their run, but our run wasn’t as big as theirs, and the lead just continued to grow.”
Rahlir Jefferson added 11 points for the Owls, who once again played without forward Scootie Randall—who Dunphy said remains day to day after missing his second straight game with an injured right foot. He had averaged 18 points in his previous six games. That’s in addition to the absence of 6-foot-11 big man Micheal Eric, who’s lost for the season with a broken right kneecap.