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November 20, 2006Prior to Monday night's game, the talk centered around how Duke would defend Air Force's machine like halfcourt offense that has been so lethal through four games this season.
Postgame talk was much different though after the Blue Devils turned in a tremendous offensive display of their own and advanced to the CBE Classic championship game with a 71-56 victory over the Falcons in Kansas City.
DeMarcus Nelson and Lance Thomas turned in terrific performances in the victory. Both players hit 7-of-10 shots from the floor as Nelson totaled 23 points and Thomas netted 15.
Duke dominated the first half action with excellent ball movement that led to blistering 74 percent field goal shooting and a 38-24 halftime advantage.
While the Blue Devils were getting a lot of easy baskets, Air Force couldn't find its usual rhythm quickly enough.
The Falcons hit just 5-of-21 three point shots and Duke used its size advantage to dominate the rebounding column 30 to 10.
Despite the one sided first half, Air Force made a run in the second half which was keyed by much improved defense out of the locker room.
Duke didn't score for nearly three minutes in the second half and Air Force settled into its methodical offense to do some damage against the Blue Devils' always aggressive defense.
The 14 point halftime advantaged was whittled to as low as seven on a couple of occasions, but Duke always had enough of a response to keep the Falcons at arm's length.
The two biggest baskets of the game for Duke were key three pointers by Jon Scheyer and Greg Paulus.
Scheyer's three came after the lead had been trimmed to nine points a little more than six minutes into the second half.
With Air Force holding the momentum, Scheyer used a head fake to free himself just enough to squeeze off a three point shot with the shot clock expiring to push the margin back to 12.
Paulus canned his three pointer about seven minutes later when the lead again stood at nine points. After a near steal by the Falcons, Paulus found himself open behind the line and ripped the net to deliver a key blow to any chances of an extended Falcon rally.
While Josh McRoberts missed some easy scoring opportunities, he played a superb all around game, tallying six assists and eight rebounds, including a key assist to Nelson for a three pointer to help get Duke back on track after the slow start to the second half.
Nelson and Thomas keyed the evening for Duke though. Nelson scored his first seven points in lightning fashion, hitting a layup, a three pointer, and a dunk off his own steal to help Duke stake itself to a quick 12-4 lead.
Thomas was active on both ends of the floor as well. He scored with a variety of moves around the goal and hit a couple of his mid-range jumpers, with most of his damage coming in the first half when the Falcons had no athletic matchup to slow down the freshman.
Air Force's second half run was keyed by Nick Welch, who keyed the Falcons in the halfcourt with his passing from the elbow.
Welch and Jacob Burtschi each scored 12 points to pace Air Force on the evening.
The Duke win gives the Blue Devils 1,800 all time victories, the fourth program to reach that mark in NCAA history.
Mike Krzyzewski's team will face the winner of Texas Tech and Marquette in the championship game Tuesday night in Kansas City.