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No. 1 Duke Brands Fairfield

Healthy and hungry again, it became clear Saturday opponents won't stop No. 1 Duke this season unless they stop Elton Brand.

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The 265-pound Brand scored 20 points and grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds as the Blue Devils disposed of Fairfield 98-66 to spoil the head coaching debut of former Duke assistant Tim O'Toole.

O'Toole was asked how difficult it was trying to defense the hulking 6-foot-8 sophomore.

"It's nearly impossible, especially when you've got the other guys around him," O'Toole said of Brand, who missed 15 games last year with a broken foot. "He's as difficult as you're going to find. One of the things about Elton is he's so light on his feet."

The Blue Devils won their 17th consecutive season opener and 23rd in a row in Cameron Indoor Stadium as the Stags couldn't contain Brand, a preseason All-America selection.

Freshman Corey Maggette added 17 points for Duke -- entering its fourth season since 1978 as the nation's No. 1 team.

Andy Buzbee led the Stags with 16 points before fouling out with 9:17 left.

O'Toole should have known better than to pick on his former mentor as Mike Krzyzewski moved to 6-0 overall against his former assistants.

"It was a choppy game and everything in the two exhibition games was free flowing," said Krzyzewski, who criticized his team's intensity level. "Their attention was better in a choppy game than ours was. That's something we need to work on. We can certainly do better. We should be able to adjust to that."

Fairfield committed 19 fouls in the opening 20 minutes as Duke was 24-for-33 from the foul line in the first half alone.

"We're more talented, so when they are playing hard like that, in order to stop us they're going to foul more," said Krzyzewski, explaining the foul disparity.

Meanwhile, Fairfield'strategy to attack the taller Blue Devils from the outside failed as the Stags were 4-for-16 from long range in the opening period and shot 27.5 percent.

"Overall, we played decent defense, but I still don't like the number of open looks we gave them," said Krzyzewski. "That is to their credit because they kept spacing."

Brand, who was 7-for-7 from the field, scored eight points in Duke's 27-9 run to close out the first half en route to a 48-27 lead.

"I felt if I got the ball I would be able to score or get someone else to score," said Brand. "The guards are getting me the ball in the right spot."

The second half was more of the same as the Blue Devils won for the 115th time in last 117 meetings against non-Atlantic Coast Conference teams in Cameron.

"We tried to huddle up, we tried to echo commands, we're tried to do these things to keep the team together and they were looking at me like, `We can't hear anything,'" O'Toole said. "Well, welcome to Cameron."

Duke finished 42-for-54 from the foul line and outrebounded the Stags 52-33.

"You don't just be a team, you become a team," said Krzyzewski. "Through tough games you find that you need one another. We need to know that we need each other even when we're more talented, then that will spill over when we play teams as talented as we are."

© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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