DURHAM, N.C. – A second-half surge by top-ranked Duke proved to be too much to overcome for the visiting Elon University men’s basketball team on Thursday night, Dec. 20, as the Phoenix fell to the Blue Devils, 76-54, inside Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Trailing by seven points early in the second period, Elon (6-5) saw Duke (11-0) go on a 15-3 run to take a double-digit lead over a six-minute stretch, going ahead by 19 points with 10:47 remaining. The Phoenix limited the deficit to 15, but Duke kept its foot on the gas to secure the victory, its 100th consecutive non-conference home win.
“I felt like we competed for 40 minutes, but when you play a team as good as Duke, you are challenged on every possession,” said Phoenix head coach Matt Matheny. “Not only does Duke have very talented players, but they play every possession like it the most important possession. That is what we are striving for in our program. I thought we did that for most of the first half, but we had a couple of lapses in the second half which is particularly seen in the way we gave up offensive rebounds in the second half.
“I like the growth of our program and I like the growth of this team,” added Matheny. “I told our players in the locker room after the game that we have the chance to be special. We were challenged tonight on every possession and we answered the bell on a lot of those possessions.”
Duke’s Mason Plumlee led all players with 21 points and 15 rebounds in the win, while Ryan Kelly (14 points), Rasheed Sulaimon (13 points) and Quinn Cook (10 points) all finished in double figures.
Sebastian Koch led the maroon and gold with 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc and a pair of free throw makes. Koch tied a career high and just missed a double-double with nine boards.
Lucas Troutman ended the night with 13 points in just 18 minutes due to first-half foul trouble, while Jack Isenbarger scored 12 points in the setback.
Elon shot 39 percent (20-of-52) from the field, including a 7-of-18 clip from long distance.
Duke won the battle on the boards, 43-32, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds that led to a total of 19 second-chance points.
Koch gave the Phoenix a one-point lead with 7:22 remaining in the first period after connecting on a deep three in front of the Cameron Crazies on the wing to give Elon a 21-20 edge.
The Phoenix held the Blue Devils to an eight-point edge at intermission, as Duke’s Quinn Cook heaved up a deep three-pointer as the buzzer sounded to make it a 35-27 game.
Elon shot 36 percent in the opening frame on 10-of-28 field goal attempts, including a 3-of-8 clip from beyond the arc. The Phoenix held the Blue Devils to 43 percent shooting in the first half, while Duke cashed in on just 5-of-11 shots from the free-throw line.
After trailing by double digits, Ryley Beaumont pulled the Phoenix back with three with less than 14 minutes to play in the second half after connecting on a three from the wing to make it a 43-35 game.
But the Blue Devils answered with back-to-back three pointers over the next two minutes to take a 49-35 game with 11:40 to play, forcing an Elon timeout. In all the Blue Devils buried seven shots from long-distance in the second half after hitting four in the first 20 minutes.
Elon returns to action on Saturday, Dec. 22, in New York when it faces Columbia at 4 p.m.