Devils Adjust Against UVa

After the Cavaliers went with an unconventional lineup, Duke had to make adjustments. Something that will need to happen as they year continues.

The Blue Devils have height on their roster that other teams would envy. But they showed the ability to turn to a smaller lineup and make that work in a comeback against Virginia.

"It gave us a different look," senior guard Nolan Smith said of the lineup that included freshman guard Tyler Thornton starting the second half. "We all decided to pick it up and play with a sense of urgency."

Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski chose to react to what he called Virginia's unconventional style. The Blue Devils chose to put more quickness on the court. Guard Seth Curry said Duke used some combinations during the game that are rarely used in practices.

"They had us spread out," Krzyzewski said. "It was more of what they were doing. Thank goodness we could adjust to that. ... We can look a couple different ways ourselves."

While this was something the Blue Devils turned to in order to solve a dilemma, it's an approach that could work in the future. Krzyzewski said some perimeter-oriented teams might make it difficult for Duke's post players to defend and apply regular pressure on the ball.

It also was an unexpected move considering the Blue Devils were adamant about getting more involvement from their post players offensively. So they ended up going in the opposite direction with a three-guard lineup.

The change could give opponents, beginning with North Carolina State on Jan. 19, something else to consider when preparing for Duke, which is bound to lose its No. 1 national ranking when the next polls come out because of its loss to Florida State.

--With Duke trailing 31-25 at halftime against Virginia and facing a halftime deficit for the second time in as many games, senior F Kyle Singler did something he has never done before. He spoke up loudly at halftime. His outburst must have shaken the Blue Devils.

"Just the feeling in the room wasn't right," Singler said. "I guess I needed to change that."

--The Blue Devils are 14-2 following a loss in the last four seasons. Granted, there haven't been many setbacks for Duke during this period, but the Blue Devils seem to have the answers when trouble strikes. "We're just not going to walk on the court and beat anybody," senior G Nolan Smith said. "This conference is too good for that."

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Minutes played by junior F Miles Plumlee against Virginia. He was a starter the previous eight games, but he wasn't used at all in the second half of the Virginia game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "When (freshman G Tyler Thornton) comes in and slides me to the 2-(guard spot), it gives us a different look defensively." -- Senior G Nolan Smith, who played alongside Thornton. But Smith sat out the final 45.8 seconds against Virginia, marking the first time he didn't play a full game in the team's first four ACC games.



--at North Carolina State, Jan. 19

KEY MATCHUPS: Duke goes to its second ACC road game hoping for a better result than the first one, and this is a site of a loss last year for the Blue Devils. Duke's backcourt will want to take advantage of youthfulness of N.C. State's guards and the Wolfpack's altered rotation in the backcourt. N.C. State's Tracy Smith can be a load in the interior, so Duke will want to use its height to combat him.

--at Wake Forest, Jan. 22

KEY MATCHUPS: Coach Mike Krzyzewski said at the start of the season that the Blue Devils would extend their defense compared to a year ago, and this might be an ideal opportunity to do so against a team that has struggled at times with ball-handling. Duke will want to prevent Wake Forest from gaining any momentum and catching a bit of confidence. This is the only meeting of the season between the teams.

FUTURES MARKET: It's almost too easy sometimes to cast sophomore G Andre Dawkins and sophomore transfer G Seth Curry in the same light because they play the off-guard spot with G Nolan Smith running the point. But Dawkins has emerged as a more consistent perimeter threat, shooting about 8 percentage points higher than Curry on 3-pointers through Jan. 16. But the good thing for the Blue Devils is that both players remain threats on the outside. With the absence of G Kyrie Irving with a toe injury, Dawkins and Curry are more likely to be on the court at the same time depending on Duke's lineup. So if they're on opposite sides of the court at the offensive end, it could spread out opposing defenses.

--Senior F Kyle Singler is about to pass a few Duke legends on career records lists. Through Jan. 16, he had produced 111 games with double-figure point totals, including 16 of 17 games this season. The 111 games tied him for sixth place in school history with Mike Gminski and Grant Hill. He also was tied for sixth place for career 3-point baskets with 246, the same number as Shane Battier.

--Senior G Nolan Smith made his first 25 free throws in ACC games across four games until missing his second-to-last attempt Jan. 15 against visiting Virginia. He had connected on 96.3 percent (26 of 27 in conference games) of his free throws. His free-throw shooting had helped him to an ACC-best eight games with 20 or more points this season.

--Sophomore F Mason Plumlee finished with a career-high 16 rebounds against Virginia. The 6-foot-10 player, who was in the starting lineup for the first time in six games, grabbed nine rebounds in barely more than six minutes to start the game. He had a total of 30 rebounds the past two games through Jan. 16, matching the most in a two-game span for a Duke player in two years.

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