Durham, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The Duke Blue Devils will begin regional action in the NIT Season Tip-Off, as they play host to the UNC Asheville Bulldogs in the opening-round on Monday evening at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The winner of this game will play either Norfolk State or East Carolina in second-round play on Tuesday.
Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils bounced back from a tough loss to Kansas (94-93) in the Champions Classic in Chicago last week with a resounding 97-64 rout of Florida Atlantic at home three days later. With the win, Duke extended the nation's longest homecourt non-conference win streak to an astounding 103 straight games. The Blue Devils are no strangers to this event, as they are an impressive 22-2 in the Preseason NIT, with championships in 1985, 2000, 2005 and 2009.
The Bulldogs are certainly looking at quite the challenge in this contest. Nick McDevitt's first season with the team has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, with UNC Asheville sporting just a 1-2 record thus far. The team dropped its first two games of the season to then top-ranked Kentucky (89-57) and Western Carolina (74-67), but McDevitt did pick up his first win as head coach last time out in a 67-58 overtime win at College of Charleston.
Despite residing in the same state, there isn't much history between these two teams. Duke won the only other meeting, a 99-56 lopsided affair in 2008.
UNC Asheville outscored the Cougars 13-4 in the overtime session to pick up its first win of the season last time out. Freshman guard Andrew Rowsey had a strong game, leading the charge with a game-high 23 points. Senior forward Jaron Lane added 13 points to the cause, while junior center D.J. Cunningham provided inside balance with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds, while also recording six blocked shots in the game.
Rowsey has made an immediate impact for UNC Asheville, averaging a robust 19.7 ppg on a sizzling .524 shooting. Will Weeks is next in the scoring column (13.0 ppg), but is currently nursing a knee injury suffered against Western Carolina and may not be available for this event. Cunningham as two double- doubles in three games this season and comes in at 12.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game.
Duke made light work of Florida Atlantic last time out, thanks to the frontcourt duo of Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker. Hood, a Mississippi State transfer, had his best game in a Duke uniform, erupting for a career-high 28 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor and 12-of-13 from the free-throw line. Parker may be the best freshman in the country and has gone for 20+ points in all three of his collegiate games thus far, including his first double-double of his career, a 21-point, 10-rebound effort against the Owls.
With the lineup Duke has, there isn't going to be many losses on record when all is said and done. The team is averaging 97.0 ppg and is shooting the lights out from everywhere (.586 from the floor, .516 from behind the arc). Parker has been an all-around monster, shooting .585 from the field, including a ridiculous .688 from 3-point range (11-of-16). He is leading the team in both scoring (23.3 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg). Hood is delivering on 69 percent of his field-goal opportunities and is putting up 20.3 ppg. The scoring pool is deep, with Quinn Cook (13.0 ppg), Rasheed Sulaimon (12.3 ppg) and Amile Jefferson (11.7 ppg) all making significant contributions as well.