Devils And Heels For ACC Reg Season

Duke concludes the regular season with a trip to Chapel Hill with an ACC Regular Season Title on the line.

The Blue Devils will have a winner-take-all regular-season finale in the Atlantic Coast Conference when they visit North Carolina on March 5. The teams share first place in the ACC with 13-2 league records.

"We have to go on with the mind-set that we'll play well," sophomore guard Seth Curry said. "It's going to be tough. It's on the road. It's going to be hostile."

It marks the second year in a row that Duke needs to win its final conference game to gain at least a share of the ACC title. Last year, the Blue Devils shared the title with Maryland. This time, it will be an outright crown or a runner-up finish to North Carolina.

Even before the Blue Devils' March 2 victory against Clemson, the outcome of the game at North Carolina was going to determine the No. 1 seed for the ACC tournament.

Duke didn't seem distracted by the first-place race in the home finale, with Clemson giving the Blue Devils a stiff test.

"That was an old-time ACC game out there," coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Now, an old-time rivalry will produce another ACC champion.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: The Blue Devils received points only from their starters in the home finale against Clemson on March 2, but part of that was a result of limited playing time for reserves. Sophomore F Mason Plumlee's inspired second-half performance meant he played nearly the entire 20 minutes. The Blue Devils cut down on their substitutions, and so Plumlee's 34 minutes marked his second-most playing time in a game this season. It's possible that North Carolina's lengthier front line will give Plumlee more challenges March 5 than Clemson did. He had five blocked shots against Clemson compared to six rejections for everyone else in the game.

NOTES, QUOTES
--Duke capped another unbeaten run on its home court by beating Clemson 70-59 on Senior Night despite committing a season-high 20 turnovers. Senior G Nolan Smith, with 21 points, and senior F Kyle Singler, with 18 points, led the way, while sophomore G Seth Curry responded from a scoreless outing four nights earlier at Virginia Tech to pour in 18 points.

--The Blue Devils were undeterred in racking up their 36th consecutive home-court victory to add to the country's longest active streak. It marked the second season in a row that the Blue Devils didn't lose inside Cameron Indoor Stadium, and the senior class compiled a 65-2 home-court mark. "We should never take it for granted (that) we have a special environment here," coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

--Senior F Kyle Singler was involved in his 120th career victory when the Blue Devils defeated visiting Clemson on Wednesday night. That's the fourth-most wins for a player in the program's history. "That's a lot of basketball," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "A lot of winning basketball."

--The Blue Devils lost Feb. 26 at Virginia Tech, and so they lost their No. 1 ranking again a week after returning to atop the polls. The game marked the 25th anniversary of Duke's first game as a No. 1-ranked team under coach Mike Krzyzewski. On Feb. 26, 1986, the Blue Devils defeated Clemson.

BY THE NUMBERS: 39.7 -- Shooting percentage from the field for the Blue Devils in the loss at Virginia Tech. The only other time Duke shot less than 40 percent from the field this season it suffered its other ACC loss in a setback at Florida State.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Some teams think we're their ticket to the NCAA Tournament." -- Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, as the Blue Devils prepared to play Clemson on March 2.


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

GAME PREVIEW:

--at North Carolina, March 5
KEY MATCHUPS: This rematch could be to determine first place in the league or perhaps a share of the title depending on results leading up to this game. Duke needed a home comeback for a Feb. 9 victory against the Tar Heels. The Blue Devils are normally reluctant to turn to a zone defense even though North Carolina's perimeter shooting woes are well-documented in recent weeks. Duke F Mason Plumlee and F Ryan Kelly will be counted on to limit the impact of North Carolina's John Henson and Tyler Zeller.

FUTURES MARKET: The Blue Devils often make a push to jump-start specific players when they're struggling in a certain area. It worked recently in regard to senior F Kyle Singler's offense after his production waned. The next target could be sophomore F Ryan Kelly, whose sterling efficiency on offense during one stretch earlier this season has disappeared. Kelly has gone a combined 3-for-12 shooting in the last two games through Feb. 26 and his perimeter touch has declined. Because he was mostly a role player as a freshman, this is Kelly's first college season with extensive playing time, and he's bound to experience some ups and downs. He went scoreless twice in February games and then managed only two points at Virginia Tech.

PLAYER NOTES
--Senior F Kyle Singler broke the school record for most career starts when he played his final home game March 2 against Clemson. Singler has started 140 games, passing former guard Bobby Hurley for the most in the program's history. He has made 98 consecutive starts.

--Senior G Nolan Smith's pursuit of the ACC's scoring crown and assist title took a bit of a blow when he had only two assists in the Feb. 26 loss at Virginia Tech and another two in the March 2 win over Clemson.

--Sophomore G Seth Curry had a miserable outing in his first game in Blacksburg, Va., where his father, Dell Curry, was a star for Virginia Tech. Seth Curry was scoreless in 15 minutes before fouling out. He missed his only two shots from the field a few days after pointing out how special he thought the occasion would be given his family's connection to Virginia Tech's basketball program.


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