The win took Duke to 27-2 for the season and extended the team's 35-game home winning streak, the longest active run in the NCAA.
The deafening Cameron crowd helped push No. 24-ranked Temple to its sixth loss of the season, further challenging a team whose lineup shifted not once, but twice in the past week due to injury, including that of forward Scootie Randall, Temple’s second-leading scorer.
“We were a little bit out of sorts, but you have to give most of that credit to Duke because they are so strong defensively,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said after the game.
Although the Blue Devils pulled through, they, too, seemed off-kilter in the first 10 minutes. The team shot just 37 percent from the field in the first half, and went the first five minutes of the game without a basket from senior Nolan Smith, who earned just five points by halftime.
The Blue Devils gave up a handful of easy layups and allowed Temple to score 20 of its 24 first-half points in second-chance shots—play somewhat incongruous with the team’s return to the No. 1 slot in this week’s Associated Press and Coaches polls. (Even the Blue Devil was celebrating the team’s climb up from No. 5, wearing a hand-scrawled athletic-tape headband that read “Back on Top”).
But with about five minutes left in the half, Duke started to find its groove. Two quick three-pointers from sophomores Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry re-energized the Cameron Crazies and sent Duke to the locker room up 31-24.
At halftime, Temple wasn’t fazed by the seven-point deficit, junior guard Ramone Moore said. Forward Rahlir Jefferson had stepped in for injured forward/center Micheal Eric, scoring 10 points, and standout forward Lavoy Allen had landed seven rebounds. But two of Temple’s starters were hitting foul trouble. Juan Fernandez racked up three offenses in the game’s first 15 minutes and freshman Aaron Brown, filling in for the injured Randall, had four fouls just minutes into the second half.
It was after the half that the Blue Devils rocketed forward with two quick three pointers that pushed them to a 10-to-2 run. Moments later, a steal and defensive rebound led to two consecutive slam dunks from Mason Plumlee, including a soft lob from Curry for an alley-oop that had injured Duke guard Kyrie Irving shimmying from the bench in his foot cast. The Blue Devils soon built a 17-point lead and couldn’t be caught.
In the game’s last minute, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski granted starters Singler and Smith a rare rest on the bench. But not before Singler capped the night with an easy dunk and fans chanted his name.
Singler led Duke in scoring, followed by Smith with 15 points and Curry with nine.
With a spotty shooting record in the past five games—including scoring just two points against Virginia last week—Singler’s apparent slump called for a change in technique Singler demonstrated against Temple, Krzyzewski said. In recent games, Singler was finishing jump shots too much like—well—a jump shooter, the coach said. So against Temple, Singler eschewed his usual three-pointers and outside shots and pushed for 18 points in the paint.
But it was Singler's defensive play that was impressive, Krzyzewski said. The 6-foot-8 forward limited Temple guard Ramone Moore to just eight points for the night—about half his average of 15 as the Owls' lead scorer.
"I think he's as good defensively as anybody," Krzyzewski said of Singler. "Because he has the determination and the 'sticktuitiveness' to defend."
Though drained from the loss, Temple starters Allen and Moore said facing a non-conference team with last year’s national championship behind it, was welcomed practice for next month’s NCAA tournament. Allen led the Owls with 17 points and 13 rebounds and earned his seventh double-double of the season.
Both teams have just three regular-season games left before their respective conference tournaments, before a possible reunion in March’s tournament bracket.
“We beat a very good team tonight,” Krzyzewski said. “[Temple is] a team that's going to be an NCAA team and maybe an Atlantic 10 champion.”
On Saturday, Temple travels George Washington University while Duke visits Virginia Tech (8-5 in conference play).