Elon fades in 2nd half of 76-54 loss at No. 1 Duke
Elon sure didn't give itself many second chances against No. 1 Duke.
Two Blue Devils each outrebounded the entire Phoenix team under their own basket, one of the biggest factors in Elon's 76-54 loss on Thursday night.
Sebastian Koch scored 14 points for Elon (6-5), which hung tough for much of the first half but was denied its first win over an Atlantic Coast Conference team since 2005.
The Phoenix finished with five offensive rebounds. Mason Plumlee and Quinn Cook had seven defensive boards apiece for Duke.
"We had little lapses in the second half, which is particularly seen in the way we gave up offensive rebounds," Elon coach Matt Matheny said. "That allowed the spread to get away from us, but we did compete."
The defeat made Elon the 100th consecutive non-Atlantic Coast Conference visitor to leave Cameron Indoor Stadium with a loss. No non-ACC team has beaten Duke there since St. John's did it in 2000.
Plumlee finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds for the Blue Devils (11-0). Ryan Kelly added 14 points, freshman Rasheed Sulaimon had 13 and Duke built a 43-32 rebounding advantage — the first time this season the Blue Devils outrebounded an opponent by more than 10. Their 15 offensive boards led to 19 second-chance points.
"If we can add rebounding to what we do, I think that'll take us to another level as a team," Plumlee said.
Playing on back-to-back nights, Duke counted on its defense to pick up an offense that was off on more open shots than usual.
"I thought we were mentally tired. You could see it in our faces," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "The season is not going to be a perfect one, and I'm proud that we kept playing defense."
Cook added 10 points for Duke, which shot 43 percent but forced 17 turnovers and turned them into 19 points.
The Blue Devils took control by outscoring Elon 29-10 during a defense-driven 13-minute stretch that began in the first half and ended midway through the second. Tyler Thornton connected on two 3-pointers 30 seconds apart before Sulaimon capped it with a 3 that made it 54-35 with about 10:45 to go. Thornton then made it a 20-point game for the first time when his jumper with 6½ minutes left made it 63-43.
"You have to just muck things out for a while, and then all of a sudden, we got that spurt," Krzyzewski said. "We were missing some wide-open shots, and then Tyler (Thornton) hit those two and it just kind of exploded."
That capped a rather successful four-day span for the Blue Devils, who returned to No. 1 for the first time since February 2011, rolled to a couple of nonconference wins and picked up a nationally televised oral commitment from Jabari Parker, one of the most highly touted recruits in years. NCAA rules prohibit schools from commenting publicly on recruits who haven't signed their letters of intent, and Parker can't do that until April 17.
Plumlee, who has scored at least 16 points in every game, finished with his fourth 20-point performance of the season and picked up a pair of senior classmates whose shooting was a bit off: Seth Curry, who has played all season with persistent shin pain, was 3 of 10 while Kelly was 4 of 13.
The Blue Devils also had a short bench: Marshall Plumlee, Mason's younger brother who played 2 minutes Wednesday night against Cornell in his season debut, wore a boot to protect his slightly sprained left foot, leaving Duke with just nine scholarship players. He missed nine games with a stress fracture in that foot, but Krzyzewski said there was no reason for concern.
Lucas Troutman had 13 points and Jack Isenbarger finished with 12 for Elon.
Just as they did in what became a 41-point win over the Big Red, the Blue Devils had decent numbers early but not much of a working margin to show for it.
Duke shot 43 percent in the first half and held Elon without an offensive rebound for the first 15½ minutes — and yet it was tied at 25 with less than 4 minutes before the break. The Blue Devils never led by more than five until closing the half with a 10-2 burst that coincided with the start of the decisive run.
Cook banked in a 35-footer in traffic at the buzzer to make it 35-27 at the break.
"That was pure luck," Cook said.