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February 13, 2008

Singler strengthens Duke's hand

Duke freshman forward Kyle Singler enjoys card tricks.

What do he and the Blue Devils have up their sleeves for the rest of the season?

Singler hopes more of the same. Singler, a former five-star prospect, is Rivals.com's National Freshman of the Week for the week ending Feb. 10 after posting double-doubles in victories over North Carolina and Boston College.

He had 14 points and 10 rebounds in Duke's 89-78 triumph in Chapel Hill, and he followed with an ACC-high 24 points, 10 rebounds and three steals in a 90-80 win over the Eagles.

Singler earned high marks for battling with Tar Heels forward Tyler Hansbrough, who had 28 points (on 12-of-21 shooting) and 18 rebounds.

"It was definitely an exciting game," Singler told Rivals.com. "He's a great player. He's very physical. He brings a lot to the table. He's a very good competitor."

What Hansbrough can't do is step out and hit the "3" like Singler, which makes him a perfect fit for Duke. Singler, from Medford, Ore., has hit at least one 3-pointer in 10 consecutive games, and he has drained three in each of the past three games.

"Players at this level are a lot stronger and quicker, but we have a great strength and conditioning coach," he said. "I've gotten bigger and stronger, and I feel like I was always pretty quick."

Singler had one of his best games of the season against Boston College, and it came at a critical time. There was some malaise after the big win at UNC, and even coach Mike Krzyzewski was worried about it having a lingering effect.

"Coach was a little bit worried, and there were signs throughout the week that we maybe weren't as focused," Singler said. "You can have a hangover from a big game like that. We came out a little slow in the first half. I wouldn't say we're good enough to do that. But we played well in the second half."

Duke trailed 42-41 at the break, but scored 49 points in the second half to push its winning streak to 11.

Between basketball and his course load, Singler said he doesn't have much time to check on the rest of an ultra-talented freshman class. But he does occasionally look for UCLA scores. Bruins center Kevin Love is another Oregon native, and the two played on the same AAU team for a while.

"Kevin and I are good friends," Singler said. "His high school team won state as a junior, and mine won it when I was a senior. We've had our share of battles."

Their next battle could be this March or maybe even in April.

"Kevin is having a great year," Singler said. "UCLA has had a couple of bumps, but they could get it going. They're going to be dangerous in March."

No less dangerous than the Blue Devils.

"We have to keep healthy, keep competing, keep improving," Singler said. "We're a good team but not a great one. We have to keep doing the little things, the uncommon things that make us different, that separate us from the pack.

"We're playing well right now, but we can't take a step back."

OTHER NOMINEES FOR PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
F Michael Beasley, Kansas State
Beasley had another monster week, averaging 29 points and 13 rebounds as the Wildcats beat Nebraska and Oklahoma State. He had 13 rebounds in each game, and he dropped 35 points on the Huskers.
F Robbie Hummel, Purdue
Hummel averaged 19 points and five rebounds as Purdue won twice last week, including a road victory over Wisconsin. Hummel shot 66.7 percent (14 of 21) from the field. He topped the 20-point mark for the first time this season in the 72-67 upset of the Badgers. Purdue became only the second Big Ten team to win at the Kohl Center during Bo Ryan's tenure.

A.J. Abrams,
G, Texas
It's hard to decide the most impressive statistic posted last week by Abrams. He led the Longhorns to two road victories by averaging 23.5 points and shooting 50 percent from the field, 55 percent from 3-point range and 100 percent from the free-throw line.

As if those numbers weren't attention-grabbing enough, he also played 82 minutes and didn't have a single turnover. He had five assists across the two games, and he added six steals.

In a 64-54 win at Oklahoma, Abrams posted a game-high 22 points with four steals and two assists in 40 minutes. He followed with a game-high 25 points, two steals and three assists in 42 minutes as the 'Horns escaped Iowa State with a 71-65 overtime victory.

OTHER NOMINEES:
F Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
He averaged 33.5 points and 15.5 rebounds as the Tar Heels fell to Duke but rebounded for a double-overtime victory over Clemson. Hansbrough played 47 minutes against the Tigers and shot 11 of 16 from the floor and 17 of 19 from the line to finish with a season-high 39 points. He had double-doubles in both games to raise his season total to 14.
F Jeff Adrien, UConn
He averaged 21 points and 11.5 rebounds and shot 60 percent (15-of-25) as Connecticut extended its winning streak to seven games with victories over Syracuse and Georgetown. He had 19 points and 12 rebounds in a 63-61 win at Syracuse and scored 23 points with 11 boards in an 80-68 victory over Georgia Tech.

Stephen Curry
G, Davidson
The Southern Conference probably would like to spread around its player-of-the-week award. That's hard to do when Curry is in your league.

Curry, a 6-foot sophomore, leads the SoCon scoring race by more than six points. He's fifth nationally in scoring at 25 points per game, an average he boosted last week by averaging 31 points in victories over Elon and College of Charleston. He was named the SoCon Player of the Week for the third consecutive week.

Curry shot 54.3 percent (19 of 35) and made nine 3-pointers last week. He made all 15 of his foul shots and also averaged 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.



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