Improved Post Game Key Going Forward

The Blue Devils got a season best performance from the post players last time out. Continual encores will be needed as Duke moves through the ACC season.

The Blue Devils have talked about cultivating more production from their frontcourt players, and those efforts might be paying off.

Sophomore forward Ryan Kelly and junior forward Miles Plumlee each scored 11 points, and sophomore forward Mason Plumlee swatted away a career-high six shots and reached a double-figure rebounding total for the third consecutive game, in the victory at North Carolina State.

"I'm proud of our big guys that they were able to hang in there," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "That's the best we've rebounded all year."

Duke will want to keep this depth of production going when they visit last-place Wake Forest on Saturday. That could be an ideal opportunity to build on some of the positives from the N.C. State game.

Duke held a 44-34 rebounding edge against an N.C. State team that entered the week with a plus-11 rebounding margin in conference games. That was as good as any other team.

So for Duke, these are the types of widespread contributions that should signal good things. After all, rarely has a story been written about this team when senior guard Nolan Smith or senior forward Kyle Singler aren't the first players mentioned -- or freshman guard Kyrie Irving and his injured toe.

This isn't to suggest that Smith and Singler won't be the go-to players. After all, they accounted for more than half of the team's shots from the field against N.C. State (37 of the Blue Devils' 67 attempts), but they had plenty of complementary players right from the get-go.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Duke apparently delivered the message to center Miles Plumlee, who had been in the starting lineup for a long stretch of the season but then played only a total of 10 minutes in the two games prior to the visit to North Carolina State. Perhaps the message was sent to Plumlee in one way when forward Josh Hairston was used off the bench before him. But Plumlee responded this time, scoring 11 points and collecting eight rebounds in 21 minutes. It figures that the Blue Devils need production out of him so he can be a key part of the team's rotation of post players.

--Duke overcame spotty shooting from F Kyle Singler, pulled out to a 15-point first-half lead, then fended off host North Carolina State in the second half for a 92-78 victory on Wednesday. The Blue Devils shot 50.7 percent, aided by 8-for-12 shooting from four reserves as they avenged a loss in the same building a year ago. G Nolan Smith drove the offense with 22 points, and Singler broke through in the second half for 14 of his 18 points as Duke won an ACC road game for the first time this season.

--With Duke trailing 31-25 at halftime against Virginia on Jan. 15 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."

--After the victory against N.C. State, the Blue Devils are 15-2 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 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 G Nolan Smith and senior F Kyle Singler were out of the lineup at the same time late in the first half against N.C. State. It's unusual in any circumstance for those players to be on the bench. But this was caused by Singler's two fouls and the requirement that Smith sit out (or Duke use a timeout) when the trainer came on to the floor to check on him when he went down with an apparent injury. They both played the entire second half.

--Sophomore F Ryan Kelly put together a memorable outing in his hometown of Raleigh when he scored 11 points for the Blue Devils in their victory against North Carolina State. That's his highest offensive output in an ACC game and his third double-figure production this season. His 2-for-2 shooting on 3-pointers gave him more than one successful 3 for the first time in his career. He also matched his career best with eight rebounds.

--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 on Jan. 15. 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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