Duke learned about life without Amile Jefferson before the holidays, and the harsh reality is likely to linger through most of January.
After sitting on a bitter loss without their star forward for eight days, the 15th-ranked Blue Devils will continue their search for a way to fill the void when Elon visits on Monday night.
Duke (9-2) is left with one true post player, four wings and a young point guard with Jefferson out indefinitely due to a fractured foot. The Blue Devils cruised past Georgia Southern 99-65 on Dec. 15 in the senior's first missed game, but his absence was felt four days later in a 77-75 overtime loss to current No. 24 Utah at Madison Square Garden.
The loss snapped Duke's seven-game winning streak and raised questions about their lineup with six players logging 97.3 percent of the minutes.
"It's a position where we have no depth or no experienced depth," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We have five perimeter guys who are really good players, and we had two really good bigs and a developing young big. And Amile's played the best of the bigs, so we're a much different team without him."
It showed in the box score as Duke was outrebounded for the first time this season, 56-38. The Blue Devils entered the game ranked seventh in the nation with 87.3 points per game but finished with fewer than 80 for the third time while shooting a season-low 29.9 percent - a whopping 10.8 percent short of the next lowest.
It didn't help that leading scorer Grayson Allen shot 3 for 18 while battling the flu and center Marshall Plumlee missed most of the second half with foul trouble.
Plumlee is Duke's only real post player other than freshman Chase Jeter, who played just six minutes and isn't ready to contribute regularly. Allen, Brandon Ingram, Matt Jones and Luke Kennard play the wings, while Derryck Thornton runs point.
"If there's only so many lifeboats on the ship, you know, you don't have a choice," Krzyzewski said.
The Blue Devils host Long Beach State on Wednesday before opening their conference schedule at Boston College on Saturday.
Duke has won 14 consecutive games at Cameron Indoor Stadium and 51 of 52 there against nonconference opponents.
Elon (9-3) rattled off six consecutive wins before Christmas and will search for its first win over a ranked opponent in 23 tries since becoming a Division I team in 1997. That stretch includes four losses to Duke in the last five seasons, the closest last December's 75-62 loss in Durham.
The Phoenix dropped their only opportunity against a ranked opponent this season with an 88-68 loss at then-No. 24 Michigan on Nov. 16.
Elon has won three of its first five true road games, the first time it has done that as a D-I team. The nine wins are the most for the Phoenix through a dozen games since 1990-91.
The Phoenix are among the nation's top 10 teams in 3-pointers made (129) and attempted (364), though their percentage (35.4) is not among the top 125.