Durham, NC (Sports Network) - The ninth-ranked Duke Blue Devils begin play in the Battle 4 Atlantis, when the welcome the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles to Durham for a non-conference matchup at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils has won 95 consecutive non-conference home games and own a string of 19 straight regular-season tournament wins heading into this contest. Duke has certainly looked the part of a national title contender, opening the season with a 74-55 blasting of Georgia State, followed by a 75-68 victory over reigning defending champion Kentucky this past week as part of the Champions Classic in Atlanta.
Andy Enfield is in his second season at Florida Gulf Coast, and has his team off to a strong start. After getting blown out in the season-opener at VCU (80-57), the Eagles have won two straight at home, knocking off ACC-foe Miami- Florida (63-51), followed by an 86-54 rout of Ave Marie.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two team on the hardwood.
FGCU showed some offensive depth in the lopsided win over Ave Marie, converting 54.5 percent form the floor, including an impressive 11-of-19 from 3-point range. Four players finished in double figures, led by Christopher Varidal, who came off the bench to tally 17 points. Sherwood Brown added 13 points, while Chase Fieler and Bernard Thompson chipped in with 11 apiece.
The offensive eruption was not the norm in the early going for Florida Gulf Coast, which is netting just 68.7 ppg through three games, although the Eagles are doing so on a solid .500 shooting. Thompson has shot the ball extremely well thus far, converting 51.5 percent from the floor overall and 55.6 percent from behind the arc, en route to a team-high 15.0 ppg. Brown is also shooting the ball well from the field (17-of-34, .500), netting 14.3 ppg.
Duke got a huge effort from senior guard Seth Curry, as the Blue Devils caught the Kentucky Wildcats at the opportune time, posting a seven-point win in Atlanta last week. Curry was 7-of-14 from the field and a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line to lead all scorers with 23 points. Senior forward Mason Plumlee handled things down low, pouring in 18 points, while Ryan Kelly and Rasheed Sulaimon added 10 points each. Despite shooting a mediocre 40 percent from the field in the first half, Duke held a two-point lead at the break (33-31). The Blue Devils found their range over the final 20 minutes of action, shooting 51.9 percent from the field to keep the Wildcats at bay.
Through two games, it looks like the Blue Devils possess a potent inside/out game, headlined by Curry (19.0 ppg) and Plumlee (18.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg). Kelly (9.0 ppg), a senior forward, provides even more veteran leadership, while Sulaimon (8.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg), a freshman guard, has made his presence felt very early on.