#22 Bulldogs Looks to Steal One From #6 Duke At Madison Square Garden
The 22nd-ranked Bulldogs hope to continue their astounding success against ACC opponents when they meet the sixth-ranked Blue Devils on Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
Many college basketball fans would have enjoyed seeing a matchup between these teams last season, when Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison and Duke’s J.J. Redick were unanimous All-Americans. Redick helped the Blue Devils stay ranked No. 1 for all but five weeks of the regular season, and Morrison keyed the Bulldogs climbing as high as No. 4.
The two engaged in a season-long battle for the national scoring title – Morrison won with an average of 28.1 points – but Redick took home most of the player of the year awards. Both have gone on to the NBA.
Instead, the teams will meet this season, with Gonzaga (9-3) looking to win its ninth straight game against an ACC foe. The Bulldogs are 8-1 against the conference, with the only loss coming in its first NCAA tournament appearance in 1995 to Maryland.
“A few years ago, it might have been ‘Gonzaga gets to play Duke,”’ Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth said when this game was announced in May. “Now it’s Duke versus Gonzaga. Two national powers playing each other.”
This is the first time the Bulldogs have ever faced the Blue Devils (10-1). However, Gonzaga already has beaten Duke’s Tobacco Road rival this season at MSG, beating then-No. 2 North Carolina 82-74 on Nov. 22 at the NIT Season Tip-Off.
“It’s a great game,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Our schedule I think is ranked in the top five of the country and it’s because we’re playing all these people. It will be a heck of a game.”
Known for its demanding schedule, Gonzaga is in the midst of a difficult stretch of four straight games away from home before the start of West Coast Conference play. The Bulldogs began the stretch Saturday with a 96-83 road loss to a Georgia team which has only one loss.
Derek Raivio scored 19 points to lead Gonzaga, which committed 21 turnovers and allowed its highest point total of the season.
“The funny thing is this team plays better when we’re the underdog,” Gonzaga forward Sean Mallon said. “We need to approach every game the same way. We can play great or we can play awful.”
Bulldogs coach Mark Few was critical of forward Josh Heytvelt, who had 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting but wasn’t aggressive enough to his coach’s liking.
“He has no conviction to get the ball inside,” Few said. “We’re never going to get where we need to be if all he does is slide out to the 3-point line.”
The 6-foot-11 Heytvelt averages 16.8 points to rank second on the team behind Raivio (20.3), but Gonzaga has lost two of three games when he has attempted more than two 3-pointers.
Duke completed a perfect six-game homestand by holding on for a 79-72 victory over Kent State on Tuesday. Josh McRoberts scored 11 of his career-high 19 points in the second half to go along with a career-best six blocks.
McRoberts will get a chance to match up against Heytvelt in a meeting of two of the nation’s top sophomore frontcourt players.
“We’re going to be looking forward to it,” Krzyzewski said. “Hopefully some of the younger guys will step up. We’re always in a little bit of discovery about our guys. Gonzaga is good.”
One of those young Blue Devils playing well is freshman guard Jon Scheyer. He had 17 points against Kent State, one game after scoring a season-high 18 in a 69-53 victory over George Mason on Dec. 9.
Duke is 7-1 against WCC opponents, including 5-0 under Krzyzewski. The Blue Devils are 13-5 at the Garden under Krzyzewski, including five straight wins.
by: Marc Young – theSpread.com – Email Us
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