Duke has one of the best home-court advantages in the country, but lately, its victories at Cameron Indoor Stadium have been coming a little tougher.
The seventh-ranked Blue Devils face one of last season’s Final Four teams as they try to extend the nation’s longest home winning streak against non-conference foes in a matchup with George Mason on Saturday.
Duke (8-1) beat Holy Cross 57-45 at Cameron on Wednesday for its 48th consecutive victory over a non-ACC team, dating to an 83-82 defeat to St. John’s on Feb. 26, 2000. The winning streak became the longest of its kind in the country after Oklahoma lost to Villanova on Wednesday, ending a 49-game run.
However, the Blue Devils trailed Holy Cross by six at halftime, and needed a strong defensive effort in the second half to pull away. In its previous two home games, Duke beat Indiana by just three points on Nov. 28 and trailed Georgetown by seven at the half before pulling away to win last Saturday.
“What we have right now is a team of guys who are still trying to establish themselves, so you can kind of get into putting too much pressure on each shot,” said DeMarcus Nelson, averaging a team-high 13.9 points. “It’s coming from a good place. Everyone wants to do well, and I think sometimes that can be a negative. We just have to go out and play hard and be aggressive and take what the defense gives you.”
George Mason (4-3) doesn’t give up much, allowing only 58.4 points per game, but is off to a slow start following its Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament.
The Patriots have alternated wins and losses through their first seven games, and only one of their four victories has been by double digits. Their last three contests away from home have included two losses and a 62-60 win over lowly Radford on Wednesday.
They’ll have a tough time posting a second win in a row on Saturday, visiting Duke team which has held opponents to an average of 47.7 points at home. The Blue Devils have held five opponents under 50 points this season, all at Cameron.
Overall, Duke is holding opponents to 51.4 points per game this season, among the best in the country.
“Our defense has saved us; thank goodness for that,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Duke has a school-record 19 home games on its schedule this season, having already played seven games at Cameron and two at neutral sites.
However, the team knows its home-court dominance won’t be easy to defend.
“(Teams) are coming in here and they’re not afraid of us,” said forward David McClure. “They’re coming in, and they’re playing their butts off, and they’re attacking us.
“They’re not afraid of Duke. It’s something that we’ve got to try and re-instill.”
The Blue Devils’ only loss this season was a 73-62 defeat to then-No. 13 Marquette on Nov. 21 in the championship game of the CBE Classic.
Duke has won each of its previous two meetings with George Mason, including a 90-79 victory in 1983 in the most recent. Both matchups were in Durham.
The Patriots depend on perimeter players to carry their offense, with guards Folarin Campbell and John Vaughan leading the team with 16.3 and 14.7 points per game, respectively. That duo has combined to make 24 of the team’s 38 3-pointers.