Duke Looking For Continued Balance

Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry's big games against Boston College were and will be needed as Duke moves through the season.

Duke continues to learn more about its team without guard Kyrie Irving, who's out indefinitely with a toe injury. And much of what the Blue Devils are finding out is creating positive feelings.

Still, it's a sorting-out process.

"We're definitely starting to figure things out," guard Nolan Smith said.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said his calendar seems out of whack.

"We're more in November and December with this team rather than late January," Krzyzewski said after Duke's 12th game since Irving's injury. The Blue Devils are 11-1 since the lineup was altered because of Irving's absence.

It means the minutes have been distributed differently in the backcourt, though Smith continues to fill the ironman's role. Guard Seth Curry's role has grown, while guard Tyler Thornton seems to have found a niche as a short-term substitute in certain situations.

The Blue Devils' next learning endeavor is scheduled for Sunday at St. John's in their final non-conference road game. Krzyzewski said he looks forward to seeing how the Blue Devils attack an experienced St. John's team.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Duke is asking more of G Seth Curry since the loss of G Kyrie Irving for an undetermined time with a toe injury. Curry arrived as a transfer from Liberty with a well-deserved reputation as a shooter, but his other contributions might be just as valuable for the Blue Devils. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said it's important that Curry works himself to a level of conditioning that makes him comfortable in the major college setting, where the pace can be taxing. He was back in the starting lineup Jan. 27 against Boston College, and the result was a season-high 20 points, his first double-digit scoring outburst in five games.

NOTES, QUOTES
--Duke hit 10 shots from 3-point range, reversing a trend of shoddy long-range shooting in ACC games, and pulled away from Boston College to win 84-68 in a performance that should stand as a confidence-builder. G Nolan Smith racked up 28 points, while G Seth Curry drained five of the 3-pointers for a season-best 20 points. Continued production from post players at both ends of the court made up for the fact that the Blue Devils didn't receive a point from any of their reserves.

--Duke has won 25 consecutive games in games played within the state of North Carolina. Its next two such games will be home outings against in-state opponents. The Blue Devils will put a 31-game home-court winning streak on the line when they welcome North Carolina State on Feb. 5 followed by North Carolina on Feb. 9.

--Duke started the season with an 18-1 record for the fourth time in a six-season span. The latest version has included back-to-back in-state road victories after defeating North Carolina State and Wake Forest within a four-day stretch.

--The Blue Devils benefitted from 17 Wake Forest turnovers and were charged with only nine giveaways in the game. It marked the first time in six ACC games this season that Duke had fewer turnovers than its opponent. In the only previous league game when the turnovers were even, Duke lost to Florida State. So in games in which Duke has committed more turnovers than its ACC opponents, the Blue Devils are 4-0.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 -- The number of turnovers committed by Duke in its win at Wake Forest. It marked the sixth time this season the Blue Devils held their turnover count to less than double figures.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We didn't want to give them any life, which we did, but we had guys making plays and we were able to finally take it away from them." -- G Nolan Smith on the game against heavy underdog Wake Forest. By winning 83-59, Duke snapped a two-game road losing streak in the series and improved to 10-10 all-time at Joel Coliseum against Wake Forest.


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME:

--at St. John's, Jan. 30
KEY MATCHUPS: Duke should have the advantage on the interior and so the Blue Devils will want to exploit it, especially at the defensive end. St. John's doesn't have the experience Duke possesses, so the Blue Devils could string together some scoring bursts if they're playing at an efficient level. This is Duke's final non-league road game.

FUTURES MARKET: The increased use of freshman G Tyler Thornton might be a temporary thing for the Blue Devils, but he offers a change-up for opponents. He's dialed in as a defensive specialist, but his 22 minutes against Wake Forest indicate the willingness to use him for more than spot duty. He has made occasional offensive contributions, but if he's only a marginal threat at the offensive end that might compromise the team's flexibility on offense. Thornton took only one shot from the field against Wake Forest, though his two assists without a turnover were a sign of efficiency.

PLAYER NOTES
--F Ryan Kelly ran his streak of consecutive made attempts from the field to 18 in a row covering parts of four games before missing in the second half against Boston College. He shot 5-for-5 in the first half, then missed a putback of teammate G Nolan Smith's missed shot. "It was right around the basket," Kelly said. "I can't make them all. I wasn't expecting to."

--Senior G Nolan Smith dealt with a minor knee ailment and that might have affected his shooting. He made only 6 of 22 shots from the field at Wake Forest on Jan. 22, but it didn't impact his ability to take shots. His 22 attempts matched his career high, set earlier in the season against Alabama-Birmingham.

--Sophomore Mason Plumlee was averaging 11 rebounds per game in six conference games entering the week after his fourth consecutive double-figure rebounding performance Jan. 22 at Wake Forest. And for good measure, he had an eight-game streak with at least one blocked shot.


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