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December 19, 2006
Duke holds off Kent State 79-72
The method was quite a bit different, but the end result was once again a victory for Duke as the Blue Devils topped Kent State 79-72 in easily the most offensive oriented game at Cameron Indoor Stadium this season.
The game was mostly tight throughout, but a pair of Duke runs, one at the beginning of the game and one toward the end, pushed the Blue Devils over the top and gave them their 10th win of the year.
Josh McRoberts paced Duke with 19 points, but DeMarcus Nelson and Jon Scheyer were right on his heels.
Nelson had 18 points and Scheyer had 17 due mostly to a first half flurry that helped send Duke hot out of the gates.
Three consecutive Scheyer 3-pointers, including one four point play, put Duke ahead 14-4 less than four minutes into the game.
A pair of free throws by Brian Zoubek extended the margin to 16-4 and it looked like a revived offense might lead to a blowout victory.
But Duke's defense was not as sharp as its offense, reversing a trend from the first 10 games.
Kent State took advantage of some bad defensive positioning and slow Duke rotations to battle back on the scoreboard.
Using a career performance from guard Omni Smith, the Golden Flashes had a terrific run throughout most of the remainder of the first half.
Over the next five minutes, Smith hit a trio of 3-pointers that helped cut Duke's lead to 24-19, and when the Blue Devils' offensive pace slowed in the latter half of the opening 20 minutes, Kent State actually surged ahead 38-37 on a 3-pointer from Chris Singletary.
Smith was by far the biggest thorn in Duke's side though. He scored 19 first half points on 8-of-10 shooting and finished the game with 33 points after another productive second half.
But Duke had enough answers in the second half to claim the win.
McRoberts had another terrific all around game, but since he also put up 19 points, Tuesday's effort seemed like it was extra special.
The 6-10 sophomore was very good on both ends of the floor. He had six blocked shots to go with four steals and four assists, not to mention six rebounds.
Nelson also continued his stellar play. His 18 points came on just 11 shots, and he also pulled down six rebounds to tie McRoberts and David McClure for the team lead.
Duke trailed by as many as three points in the second half, and the Devils faced a 53-50 deficit with less than 11 minutes left in the ballgame.
But Nelson scored a layup in the paint to bring Duke back within one, and that sparked a 17-4 run over the next six minutes to give the Devils control of the game and a 10 point lead.
In the midst of that run, Nelson and Greg Paulus each connected on a 3-pointer.
For Paulus, it was a good springboard game for the meat of the schedule which awaits Duke now that final exams are finished.
Even though he made a couple of bad turnovers, he hit two of his three long range shots and had 12 points overall, in addition to his team leading five assists.
In addition to Smith's 33 point effort for Kent State, the Golden Flashes also got double digit production from Haminn Quaintance (10 pts.), Singletary (11 pts.), and Mike Scott (10 pts.).
After having 10 days off prior to the Kent State game, Duke now has just two days to get ready for Gonzaga, as the Blue Devils and Bulldogs meet Thursday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City.