A tussle with Maryland provided evidence of the potential pitfalls as the Blue Devils faced their biggest deficit of the season at 38-32 early in the second half of the Jan. 9 game.
It was a much-anticipated matchup for the Blue Devils because by winning the game their winning streak dating back to last season sits at 25 consecutive games. The last time Duke lost came to Maryland last March at College Park, Md.
The benefit for the Blue Devils might be that they again showed they have capable depth. Reserve guard Seth Curry's scoring spree, when he tallied nine of Duke's 14 points during a game-changing burst against Maryland, gave the offense a more balanced look. And freshman Tyler Thornton supplied a defensive spark at the start of an 11-0 run.
"We knew we were fine," guard Nolan Smith said. "We just knew we were in a fight, and we knew that at halftime."
--Duke could face a heavy dose of unranked opponents this season because the Blue Devils are the only ranked ACC team and a future non-conference home opponent has fallen from the national polls. Duke has won 51 consecutive home games against unranked foes. Duke, on the other hand, has been in the Top 10 for 64 consecutive weeks after the first poll of 2011.
--The Blue Devils have scored at least 70 points in their first 15 games this season. The team's season-low 71 points against Maryland came with a season-worst 40.3-percent shooting from the field. It started out rather slowly for Duke because it had a season-low 32 points at halftime, though F Kyle Singler's tip-in right before the first-half buzzer avoided the first halftime deficit of the season for the Blue Devils.
BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- The number of times Duke has connected on 10 or more 3-pointers this season, including a season-high 15 against Bradley. But the Blue Devils haven't reached the double-digit mark on 3s in their last three games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "(That) is one of the things that makes you love coaching. He gave us energy." -- Coach Mike Krzyzewski on freshman G Tyler Thornton, a seldom-used player who didn't play in the first half against Maryland and then sparked the team's defense with four steals in 12 minutes.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Florida State, Jan. 12
KEY MATCHUPS: Duke's improving post players will have a challenge with the Seminoles' front line, and there could be lots of physical defense played in the lane. This figures to be one of the biggest obstacles for Duke because of Florida State's overall athleticism. This is Duke's first game on an opposing team's home court, so the Seminoles will want to keep the crowd engaged. It's the only meeting of the regular season between the teams.
--vs. Virginia, Jan. 15
KEY MATCHUPS: Duke should hold a significant advantage on the inside, particularly if Virginia's Mike Scott remains out with an injury. The Blue Devils might have to deal with Virginia's patient offense, so look for Duke to find ways that might increase the tempo. Duke's ability to score in chunks might be too difficult for Virginia to keep up with.
FUTURES MARKET: The most underrated player with the Blue Devils so far this season could be sophomore F Ryan Kelly, who has started 11 games. Kelly has been steady defensively and he's generally in position, giving the Blue Devils a foundation in the middle. He bulked up by about 20 pounds from his freshman season. But what might be most impressive is that he's second on the team in blocked shots even though he doesn't display the eye-catching leaping ability that some of his teammates possess. His emergence is why the Blue Devils appear well-stocked with depth among post players.
--Senior F Kyle Singler became the 11th player in school history to reach the 2,000-point mark when he eclipsed it Jan. 5 against Alabama-Birmingham. Four nights later he moved past Jim Spanarkel into 10th place in scoring all-time at Duke.
--Senior G Nolan Smith has 24 career games of 20 or more points. Seven of those have come this season, though his streak of reaching at least 20 points ended at five games when he was held to 18 in the Jan. 9 win over Maryland.
--Sophomore G Andre Dawkins has been the leading scorer off the bench in the ACC this season. He's averaging nearly 12 points per game. He has been the first reserve used by Duke in eight games this season, though he has been back in the starting lineup the past three games.