Saturday , Jan , 06 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

ACC play gets underway for fifth-ranked Duke

Durham, NC (Sports Network) – The fifth-ranked Duke Blue Devils finally get
ACC play underway, as they host the Virginia Tech Hokies this afternoon
in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

It sounds rather strange, but the Blue Devils are flying a bit under the
radar on the national level, despite winning 13 of their first 14 games this
year, Mike Krzyzewski’s team has quietly won nine straight entering this tilt
and is coming off a 73-55 win over Temple on Tuesday. Duke has won 10
straight ACC openers, the longest streak in school history.

The Hokies are trying to prevent win number 11 and have been impressive at
times this year, with a 10-4 overall mark. The team has won six of its
last seven games, including Wednesday’s 65-53 win over Richmond.

Duke holds a 32-6 advantage in this series, including a 13-0 mark at
Cameron Indoor Stadium. Overall, the Blue Devils have won 10 of the last 11

The Hokies are at their best when they are playing stingy defense. The team
employs a successful 2-3 zone that has frustrated opponents. Virginia Tech is
currently allowing just 57.8 ppg, while holding foes under 40 percent shooting
(396). Offensively, the team has four reliable options, starting with guard
Zabian Dowdell, who is netting 16.4 ppg, Backcourt mate Jamon Gordon logs
nearly 12 points per outing (11.9), followed closely by Deron Washington and
A.D. Vassallo, who add 11.4 and 11.3 ppg, respectively. Dowdell led the team
with 22 points against Richmond, scoring 18 in the second half. He came off
the bench in the game, as head coach Seth Greenberg benched both him and
Gordon to start things off. Coleman Collins and Vassallo were perfect
complements with 11 points apiece, as Vassallo got a rare start.

Duke has certainly enjoyed some offensive superstars over the years, but this
season is a bit different. Coach K has had to change his philosophy a bit in
2006-07, rather relying on staunch defensive play to maximize results. To the
team’s credit, it has thrived in that area, holding opponents to a minuscule
53.4 ppg, holding them under 40 percent shooting from the field (.375)
and well under 30 percent from long range (.240). This is a young team that
will eventually grow up offensively. The one veteran is senior DeMarcus
Nelson, who leads the team in scoring at 14.5 ppg. Sophomore Josh McRoberts is
next in line with 12.6 ppg and is tops on the team in rebounding (7.9 rpg),
blocked shots (37) and assists (59). Freshman Jon Scheyer rounds out the
double-digit threats with 10.6 ppg. The Blue Devils fell behind by 12 points
early on, but didn’t panic against the Owls this week. McRoberts led the
charge with a tremendous all-around effort. He finished with a career-high 21
points, adding nine rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots for good
measure. Nelson recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while
Greg Paulus chipped in a dozen points. Duke completely dominated the boards,
49-28, setting a season-high for rebounds.