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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, December 19, 7:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Madison Square Garden (19,812) -- New York, New York. Television: ESPN. Home Record: UCLA 7-0, Duke 7-0. Away Record: UCLA 0-1, Duke 0-0. Neutral Record: UCLA 2-0, Duke 1-2. Conference Record: UCLA 0-0, Duke 0-0. Series Record: Duke leads, 9-6.
GAME NOTES: A marquee matchup is on tap for Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, as the UCLA Bruins take on the eighth-ranked Duke Blue Devils.
UCLA started the season a red-hot 8-0, which allowed it to climb all the way to No. 18 in the rankings a few weeks ago, but it promptly fell from the polls following a Dec. 7 loss at Missouri (80-71). The Bruins got back on the winning track on Saturday afternoon, as they returned home to down Prairie View A&M, 95-71.
Duke began the season with sky-high expectations but has fallen short of elite status by losing a pair of games to fellow nationally-ranked teams Kansas (94-83) and Arizona (72-66), with both setbacks coming on neutral floors. Since their latest loss, the Blue Devils have rebounded with back-to-back wins over Michigan (79-69) and Gardner-Webb (85-66) to improve to 8-2 on the season.
Duke leads the all-time series between these two historic programs, 9-6, which includes an 84-73 victory in the latest meeting in November of 2002.
The Bruins' latest triumph was never in doubt, as they shot a blistering 64.2 percent from the field on the night, helped themselves at the foul line by draining 20-of-28 and created 17 takeaways as they dismissed Prairie View A&M by 24 points. Jordan Adams sparked the triumph on both ends of the floor, contributing 18 points and five steals. Kyle Anderson and Norman Powell netted 13 points apiece, while Travis Wear and Zach LaVine each chipped in 10 points.
UCLA's offensive production has been the primary reason for its success this season, as it ranks second in the nation in both scoring (89.1 ppg) and field-goal percentage (.543) while also showcasing strong efficiency from 3- point range (.411) and the free-throw line (.744). Spearheading the attack is Adams, who scores 21.2 points per game on 53.3 percent shooting, while showing quick hands in the passing lanes as well (3.5 spg). LaVine and Anderson each pour in 13.8 points per game, with Anderson adding 8.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game to his arsenal. Powell has also been solid with 12.2 points per game on 60.3 percent from the floor.
The Blue Devils were actually outshot from the floor by Gardner-Webb their last time out, 54 percent to 50 percent, but they were still able to cruise to a 19-point victory by piecing together a 20-of-28 showing at the foul line and by earning extra possessions by dominating the rebounding battle, 37-22. Jabari Parker was outstanding as usual with 21 points on 7-of-12 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. Andre Dawkins shot 4-of-8 from 3- point range off the bench for 18 points, Quinn Cook tallied 16 points and nine assists, Rodney Hood put up 15 points and Amile Jefferson hauled in 10 rebounds in the balanced effort.
Duke's offense has been excellent in its own right this season, as it shoots 51.7 percent from the field (including 42 percent from beyond the arc) for 86.0 points per game, which is 13.5 points more than it allows on the other end of the floor. Parker has quickly established himself as one of the nation's best players in his freshman year, boasting 22.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and more than a block and a steal per game. Hood (18.9 ppg) is about as good as it gets as a second option, while Cook is just as efficient scoring the ball (14.7 ppg) as he is dishing it out (6.6 apg).
UCLA has plenty of shooting prowess and is one of the few teams in the country that can keep up with Duke on the perimeter. The Blue Devils have shown to be vulnerable against athletic squads. In the end however, the Bruins simply haven't been tested as much as Duke in the early season, and that experience will prove beneficial in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Duke 80, UCLA 78
12/19 11:49:11 ET