Santa Clara-Duke Preview

The Associated Press

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said his players earned some time away from campus even if they hadn't been unbeaten.

His top-ranked Blue Devils are back at school and will play for the first time in nine days Saturday at home against a Santa Clara team that has won six straight and hasn't lost in regulation all season.

Following back-to-back home wins Dec. 19-20, Krzyzewski sent his team home for the holidays. Duke (11-0) did not return to practice until Wednesday.

"That's the way to do it and they've earned it, even if we were 6-5 they would have earned it, you know what I mean?" he said. "They deserve to have that going for them."

The Hall of Fame coach said he would exclusively work on conditioning in the Blue Devils' return to practice going into a stretch that includes Wednesday's trip to Davidson before the start of ACC play next Saturday against Wake Forest.

"Hopefully our guys have been staying in decent shape and then we gotta get going real quick because the team we have coming up is a good one, Santa Clara, then you play Davidson and right away you start the conference," said Krzyzewski, whose team is 11-0 for the sixth time since 2001-02.

The break may have come at a good time. Duke shot a season-high 56.7 percent in an 88-47 rout of Cornell on Dec. 19, one night before turning in its second-worst shooting effort (43.3 percent) and struggling to put away Elon in a 76-54 win.

Mason Plumlee had 21 points and 15 rebounds against Elon. He's among the nation's leaders in double-doubles with seven and field-goal percentage at 64.1.

Plumlee is one of five Blue Devils averaging more than 10 points, with the other four all shooting at least 40.0 percent on 3-pointers.

"Things have gone great and now you're onto the next part of your season," Krzyzewski said.

Santa Clara (11-2) has three players averaging double figures in points, led by Kevin Foster's 18.2 per game.

Foster is dubbed "Microwave" as the Broncos' all-time leading scorer with 1,927 points after passing Kurt Rambis earlier this season.

The senior, however, was held without a basket for the second time in his career and first time in 105 games last Saturday. He missed all eight field-goal attempts and made two at the line for his only points in a 69-45 win over Wagner.

Foster's scoring prowess was not missed after Santa Clara got 23 points from forward Marc Trasolini, who entered off back-to-back 24-point efforts. Trasolini picked up the slack for Foster and Raymond Cowels III, who scored seven on 3-of-11 shooting.

"Marc is a really good scorer, inside and out," coach Kerry Keating said. "Ray and Kevin were struggling offensively and it's good to know we can win when Kevin scores two points and still play well offensively as team."

The 6-foot-9 Trasolini will likely match up against the 6-10 Plumlee.

"We head to No. 1 Duke with a lot of confidence after the last couple of days," Trasolini said.

The Broncos' losses have come in overtime to Utah State and UC Santa Barbara.

Santa Clara is 0-11 against top-ranked teams and has lost 19 straight to Top 25 foes since defeating North Carolina on Nov. 19, 2004. The Broncos are 0-2 against the Blue Devils, though the teams last met in 1972.

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