Josh McRoberts ended 2006 on a hot streak and he rang in the new year in the same fashion Tuesday night, as the Blue Devils won their first game in 2007 over Temple 73-55, behind another outstanding effort from their sophomore big man.
McRoberts overcame some early foul trouble to score a career high 21 points to go with nine rebounds, four assists, and four blocks as Duke battled back from an early hole against the Owls.
Temple started the game hot from the field, racing out to a 16-6 lead in the first five minutes of the game.
Dionte Christmas, Temple's top player and the Atlantic 10's leading scorer, combined with Dustin Salisbery to score 12 of the Owls' first 16 points, but Christmas twisted his ankle early in the game and never could regain full effectiveness.
Duke's defense picked up its intensity for the remainder of the first half, at one point holding Temple scoreless over a five minute stretch when Duke went from being behind 24-17 to ahead 27-24.
The offense got an early lift from big man Brian Zoubek, who got some extra minutes with McRoberts in foul trouble. Zoubek's size inside proved difficult for Temple's undersized front line, and the seven footer ended up contributing eight points and six rebounds.
Leading 35-28 at halftime, Duke was never threatened in the second half as the offense continued to forge momentum.
DeMarcus Nelson rebounded from a difficult first half to play much better in the second.
The sophomore knocked down a three pointer shortly after the break and was on the receiving end of two of the best assists of the season.
At the 10:35 mark of the second half, Greg Paulus scooped up a loose ball off a Salisbery turnover and began a 2-on-1 break with Nelson trailing. Paulus whipped a behind the head pass back to Nelson who finished the break with a one handed tomahawk slam to push Duke's lead to 51-39.
A little more than a minute later, he got a great behind the back pass from McRoberts, who was posted just off the block and sent a no look pass to Nelson slashing down the paint for a layup.
Nelson finished the night with a double-double even though he was just 6-of-16 from the floor, scoring 14 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
The Blue Devils continued their dominating play on the defensive end.
Temple shot just 34.3 percent for the game, and even with an early flurry from behind the three point line finished just 3-of-18 from long range for 16.7 percent.
Duke also dominated on the boards, an area Temple has struggled in all season. The Blue Devils outrebounded the Owls 49-28 and also blocked six Temple shot attempts.
The rebounding dominance was keyed by McRoberts, Nelson, and David McClure.
McClure earned a start tonight instead of Gerald Henderson, and with Lance Thomas missing his second straight game, McClure stepped up in a big way.
The third year sophomore had 12 rebounds and two blocks on the evening, to go with six points on 50 percent shooting.
Duke's lead extended to as many as 19 points in the second half. The Blue Devils reached that margin twice, once when a McClure dunk upped the lead to 66-47, and again when Jon Scheyer took an assist from McRoberts to hit a layup and make the lead 69-50.
Duke's offense had a productive outing despite not getting much production from the three point line.
Paulus hit his only two attempts from beyond the arc, but the rest of the team was just 3-of-13 from long range.
Paulus scored 12 points on the night, giving him his fourth straight game in double figures.