Finding Ways To Win

Without Kyrie Irving and with Kyle Singler struggling, Duke continues to win in different ways.

The Blue Devils keep building impressive numbers even if suggestions continue that their status has been tarnished with the loss of freshman guard Kyrie Irving to a toe injury.

Through Feb. 13, Duke had produced a 23-2 record and that was the program's best mark at that 25-game juncture of a season in five years. By picking up their 10th ACC victory Feb. 13 at Miami, the Blue Devils reached double-digit conference triumphs for the 28th time.

Duke found different ways to win in recent games, overcoming senior forward Kyle Singler's shooting struggles against North Carolina and senior guard Nolan Smith's foul trouble and nine-minute first half at Miami.

So that put other players in positions where they had to offer some more, particularly on the offensive end. Becoming a well-rounded team is something that coach Mike Krzyzewski has referenced as the key to the Blue Devils playing at their best during the season's final weeks.

The next two games come against teams in the lower half of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings, Virginia and Georgia Tech. But Duke faces challenges just about every time out.

The game at Miami marked the first time in Duke's past 20 contests that it didn't have a 20-point scorer. Smith was tops with 18 points. That might be another sign that the Blue Devils don't have to have one player carry a heavy load in order to win.

--Duke played in front of record crowd of 7,972 at Miami's on-campus arena in the Feb. 13 game. The Blue Devils have played in front of sell-out crowds in all except four games this season. Two of the non-sellouts were neutral-court games in arenas built for the NBA, and the other two were within a couple hundred fans of being sellouts.

--The Blue Devils had to go for a stretch at Miami without senior G Nolan Smith, whose two early fouls combined with being poked in the eye meant he missed time. He logged only 29 minutes in the game, considerably below his average of 37 minutes per game in ACC games (rating second in the league behind Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney entering the outing). Because of that, senior F Kyle Singler passed him on that list because Singler played the full 40 minutes.

BY THE NUMBERS: 23 -- Consecutive games in which senior F Kyle Singler had scored in double figures, through Feb. 13. That was the longest active streak in the league, though his last two games had resulted in 10 points vs. North Carolina and 14 at Miami.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They say big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games. I felt good out there." -- Sophomore G Seth Curry, a transfer from Liberty who's starting to carve his own reputation with consistent scoring. He's the younger brother of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry.



--at Virginia, Feb. 16
KEY MATCHUPS: Duke had a tussle in the first meeting and trailed at the half, so it will want to have a stronger start, and that should begin with the backcourt. G Nolan Smith should be capable of slicing into the lane against Virginia's guards. Duke holds a size advantage on the interior, and this should be the type of game in which F Ryan Kelly and/or F Mason Plumlee can be effective at both ends of the court.

--vs. Georgia Tech, Feb. 20
KEY MATCHUPS: This will be the only regular-season meeting between the teams, and Duke's experience could be a factor. The Blue Devils are capable of throwing multiple defenders at Georgia Tech G Iman Shumpert, most notably G Nolan Smith and G Tyler Thornton. One of the keys for Duke will be making sure no other Georgia Tech player heats up if Shumpert is contained. Shumpert also has been his team's leading rebounder.

FUTURES MARKET: Keeping sophomore G Andre Dawkins as a viable contributor will be one of the goals in the short term because he's bound to be a key factor if the Blue Devils are to make an extended postseason run. Dawkins' playing time has fallen off at times, yet with freshman G Kyrie Irving sidelined, the Blue Devils need all the help they can get in the backcourt to assist G Nolan Smith. Much of the recent attention has fallen on sophomore G Seth Curry because of his scoring and freshman G Tyler Thornton because of his place in recent starting lineups. But Dawkins is a long-range threat who has shown flashes of athleticism, and he's capable of busting out for sizeable contributions. His 2-for-13 shooting from the field across the past three games through Feb. 13 is something the Blue Devils will want to see improve.

--Freshman G Tyler Thornton had shot a total of 17 free throws this season prior to Feb. 13. Then he went 6-for-6 in the final minute at Miami. He had played in all except two games this season, and one of the games he didn't enter was Duke's first meeting of the season against Miami.

--Senior G Nolan Smith is bidding to become the first player in ACC history lead the league in scoring and assists. His closest competition in the assists category, through Feb. 13, was North Carolina F Kendall Marshall. He held about a three-points-per-game lead on Virginia Tech G Malcolm Delaney in the scoring category. Duke has matchups with both those teams across its last three regular-season outings.

--Sophomore G Seth Curry ended up back in the starting lineup at Miami, and he continued his hot shooting that surfaced a few days earlier against North Carolina. Curry, who replaced freshman G Tyler Thornton as a starter, hit three first-half 3-pointers and collected 13 of his 16 points for the game in the opening half Feb. 13.

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