Opposition Trying To Keep Duke Guessing

The Blue Devils are seeing several different approaches by opponents as the season progresses.

The Blue Devils faced a physical approach by Georgia Tech, and that threw them off their game for a time Sunday night.

"It was a very physical first 10 minutes, a lot of pushing, knocking around," guard Nolan Smith said. "We had to adjust."

Georgia Tech also tried to use time off the clock on every possession, but that eventually led to more aggressive play from the Blue Devils.

The rematch from last year's ACC tournament final began with Georgia Tech finding soft spots in Duke's defense for nine points in less than three minutes. This was after the Blue Devils held Virginia to 41 points for an entire game in their previous outing.

So this leads to Duke's next game, Wednesday night against visiting Temple for a February non-league encounter.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke said he likes this setup because it gives the Blue Devils a chance to see something different out of conference as the postseason approaches.

--Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was assessed his first technical foul of the season Sunday night in the first half against Georgia Tech. After that, the Blue Devils weren't called for a foul for the remaining 10:16 of the half. "There was a lot going on," Duke G Nolan Smith said. "It got us going. ... That's a sign he's fighting for us."

--The Blue Devils are becoming less reliant on long-range shooting. For the second game in a row, they launched only 16 shots from 3-point range on Feb. 20. They've had only three games when they've taken fewer than that number of 3-pointers.

4 -- The number of times sophomore F Mason Plumlee has fouled out this season after his disqualification with 4:42 remaining against Georgia Tech. The rest of his teammates have fouled out six times combined.

"I just think we're a good team and we have to keep winning." -- Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke on the possibility that the Blue Devils could return to the No. 1 national ranking, where they began the season. Duke has been ranked fifth nationally, but the four teams ahead of the Blue Devils lost during the past week.



-- vs. Temple, Feb. 23
KEY MATCHUPS: Duke ventures outside the conference to take on a ranked opponent, one of the fewer foes across the past couple of months holding that distinction. The Blue Devils will be inclined to push the tempo to a fast enough pace to their liking. Duke will be counting on continual production from its post players, who have helped provide more balanced scoring.

-- at Virginia Tech, Feb. 26
This is the only meeting of the season between teams expected to be at the top of the ACC standings. Duke will look to apply pressure on the backcourt, which is a strength for Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils will need to be solid enough in the interior so Virginia's Jeff Allen and Victor Davila don't get rolling.

The Blue Devils are making taking care of the ball an issue after matching a season high with 18 turnovers Wednesday night at Virginia. With senior G Nolan Smith giving up some of the ball-handling responsibilities, it has opened the possibility for some more slipups with the ball from players unaccustomed to playing with the ball in their hands regularly. It's a topic that's bound to be addressed as the Blue Devils are facing teams willing to slow down the pace and aim for fewer possessions in games. That makes each possession even more important for the Blue Devils.

--Sophomore G Seth Curry dished out a game-high six assists against Georgia Tech for his season-high in that category. That was two more assists than senior G Nolan Smith, his teammate who leads the ACC in assists.

--Sophomore F Mason Plumlee notched nine points and nine rebounds in consecutive games. The matching numbers, which came at Virginia and then home against Georgia Tech, didn't stop there. In each of those games he had two offensive rebounds. And, he had three assists and one blocked shot in both games as well. He played 28 minutes in the Georgia Tech game, eight more than the Virginia game.

--Sophomore G Andre Dawkins has seen his role reduced as sophomore G Seth Curry has emerged in a leading role. Dawkins played in a season-low nine minutes in the Feb. 20 victory against Georgia Tech. He has been scoreless in three games this season, including two of the past three games.

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