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Blue Devils are Ready for Their Elite Eight Moment
Courtesy: Michael Tomko,
Release: 03/28/2010
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Brian Zoubek grabbed 14 rebounds in Friday’s win over Purdue.
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
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HOUSTON, Texas - Kyle Singler remembers playing basketball in his back yard and having his Dad countdown seconds to simulate the final possession of a basketball game where the final shot can make the difference between a win and a loss.

It is that kind of moment that all athletes dream about experiencing one day.

Moments like that don't present themselves every year, which that is why Duke and its head coach Mike Krzyzewski are living in this moment and enjoying the opportunity to play in the Elite Eight Sunday from Reliant Stadium against the Baylor Bears.

"It's the type of thing that as a little kid you want to be a part of," Singler said. "This game is that game where you get that chance."

 "I think we're both two teams that are trying to accomplish something that these groups have not accomplished before," Krzyzewski said. "Forget about the past. In college it's always about the present and what this group is trying to do."

The Blue Devils are trying to reach their 15th Final Four in school history and third in the past 10 years, while the Baylor Bears are attempting to reach their its first Final Four in school history.

"We are really excited," Jon Scheyer said. "Guys are still on a mission and everybody is really focused. There is not a ton of joking around. This is a big game for us, and we all are looking forward to it, but we are enjoying this as it goes along, just enjoying this experience."

Duke has reached this moment behind excellent defense and rebounding.

The two go hand in hand for Duke because even if you defend for an entire possession, force a tough shot and get a miss, failing to secure a defensive rebound makes all that effort be for nothing.

Giving up offensive rebounds and easy put backs can crush the confidence of a team.

Duke has prevented against that all season.

"Our big guys are big and strong inside and we have athleticism too," Scheyer said.

Brian Zoubek has been Duke's best rebounder all season, averaging 7.6 boards per game with 11 games of 10 or more rebounds.

Zoubek collected 14 rebounds in the Blue Devils win over Purdue last on Friday to bring his NCAA Tournament average to 10.3 rebounds per game.

Overall the Blue Devils held a 48-27 edge over the Boilermakers on the glass and have a +13.0 rebound margin in the NCAA Tournament.

The bulk of the rebounding responsibilities have been placed on the shoulders of Zoubek, Lance Thomas and Miles and Mason Plumlee.

The pairings of Zoubek and Thomas and the Plumlee's have given Duke two distinctly different styles in the frontcourt.

"It's been great being able to rotate with those guys and knowing that there's not going to be a drop-off when they come in," Zoubek said. "I think they provide something a little bit different as well, a little more athleticism and blocking some shots. So they give the other team a different look."

"They've carried us, you know, especially on the boards; Brian having 14 boards the last game and Lance having nine the game before," Scheyer said.

By eliminating second shot opportunities, Duke's defense has been able to hold its opponents in the NCAA Tournament to 51.3 points per game, with Arkansas-Pine Bluff, California and Purdue combining to shoot 56-of-155 (.361) from the field.

None of Duke's NCAA Tournament opponents have cracked 60 points versus the Blue Devils.

"With our defensive rebounding we feel like we can stop anybody and if we can do that we can win games," Smith said.

Baylor features three starters that are all at least 6'10" and are coming off a dominating win over St. Mary's in the Sweet 16.

The Bears outrebounded St. Mary's 37-25 and were led by 6'10" junior Ekpe Udoh with 11.

"We really need to do a good job of crashing the boards and limiting their transition as well," Zoubek said.