DURHAM, NC - Not many people gave the Owls much of a chance to knock off top-ranked Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday night but there was a sentiment that they might be able to hang with the Blue Devils long enough to put a scare into them.
The Owls lasted about 21 minutes before succumbing to the much ballyhooed 'Duke run' as the Blue Devils blew the game open in the second half and went on to win comfortably, 78-61.
The win marked Duke's 86th in a row against non-conference opponents at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The last non-ACC team to win in Cameron was St. John's on Feb. 26, 2000. This victory was Duke's 35th straight win at home, the nation's longest active streak.
Temple gained the lead on five separate occasions in the game's opening minutes but a pair of successful free throws by freshman guard Tyler Thornton with 11:29 remaining put the Blue Devils ahead for good, 12-11.
The Owls hung tough and were within four points in the half's waning moments but a long 3-pointer by Seth Curry with one second remaining pushed Duke's lead to 31-24 and seemed to take some of the wind out of Temple's sails.
Rahlir Jefferson scored 10 of his 11 points in the first half. The sophomore forward played all 40 minutes and stuffed the stat sheet in the process as he had six assists, five rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
Lavoy Allen put forth a great effort under the bright lights as he notched his seventh double-double of the season thanks to a 17-point, 12-rebound effort. Like Jefferson, Allen played practically the whole game and did well to stay out of foul trouble.
Part of the reason why Allen and Jefferson had to play the entire game was because of injuries to Micheal Eric (knee) and Scootie Randall (foot). The Owls ran with a seven man rotation thanks to the lack of options off the bench which ultimately led to them being worn down by Duke's superior depth in the second half.
The Blue Devils started the second frame on a 7-2 run that pushed their lead to 12 points with 17:40 remaining, 38-26. The Owls never truly threatened at any point in the second half and fell behind by as many as 19.
Duke took advantage of Temple's lack of size as they pounded the ball down low at every opportunity. Kyle Singler broke out of his recent mini-slump by establishing himself near the basket. The career 37 percent 3-point shooter took 19 shots with only one of them coming from beyond the arc. Most of his baskets came when against overmatched and undersized defenders such as T.J. DiLeo.
The senior from Medford, OR scored a game-high 28 points.
The high scoring trio of Juan Fernandez, Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt struggled as they scored a total of 22 points on 7-of-26 shooting. Fernandez, who shot roughly 70 percent in the team's two previous contests, was particularly ineffective tonight as he went just 2 of 10 overall from the field.
As a team, the Owls shot 39.3 percent (24 of 61).
Though Fran Dunphy is not the type to celebrate moral victories, it must comforting to know that his team, as shorthanded as they are currently, has the ability to compete with the very best in the country as evidenced by the first half. Replicating that effort for a full game in March should be enough to finally get the Owls over the first round hump they have been stuck at.
Until then, Temple will have to go out and take care of business as they enter the home stretch of their march to Atlantic City. They will play a George Washington team on Saturday that is fighting to host an opening round game at the Charles E. Smith Center.