Benching Makes Rivers Step Up His Play

After being taken out of the starting lineup last week, freshman guard Austin Rivers has gotten back on track on both ends of the floor.

The Blue Devils have confidence in freshman guard Austin Rivers, who has shown he is best at creating shots.

But Rivers has gone through some tough times from his perspective. His response is what has encouraged the Blue Devils the most.

Rivers was used as a reserve rather than a starter for the home game against Wake Forest, a development that irked him so much that he said he had a few sleepless nights.

"I was so angry," he said. "I came to practice the next day and I was blocking people's shots and talking trash and getting in fights with people."

He also turned that agitation -- after an apology to the team -- into a couple of big performances. That's just the reaction that Coach Mike Krzyzewski was seeking.

"He knows what he's doing," Rivers said of his coach. "He wanted to get me fighting again. And it got me going again."

Rivers scored 20 points against Wake Forest. It was only a one-game absence from the starting lineup because Rivers started against Florida State on Jan 21. In that loss, he made the game-tying basket in the waning seconds and scored 19 points.

Rivers said this setback has made him a better player and that he's determined to turn the personal adversity into something good.

"I realized I needed to mature in a lot of ways," he said. "And I need to keep doing that moving forward."


NOTES, QUOTES
Blue Devils not used to losing at home
--Duke's 45-game home-court winning streak ended when Michael Snaer's game-ending three-point shot gave Florida State a 76-73 upset victory on Jan. 21 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Losing a home game seemed foreign to the Blue Devils.

"We're hurting right now," G Seth Curry said. "It's disappointing to lose, especially on your home court."

The Blue Devils hadn't lost a home game to an unranked opponent in almost five years, also against Florida State on Feb. 4, 2007.

--For a team that's supposed to be dominating on the interior, the Blue Devils have some work to do. While some teams are reluctant to take the ball inside on Duke's big front line, Florida State found ways to get the ball into the lane. F Mason Plumlee led the Blue Devils with 31 blocked shots entering the Jan. 21 game, yet against Florida State he had the team's only block.

--The Blue Devils used eight players against Florida State on Jan. 21, but their rotation really was seven because G Quinn Cook played one first-half minute. Cook has been limited the past two games by a knee injury that surfaced in the team's Jan. 15 game at Clemson. He has worked into the starting lineup at one point.

BY THE NUMBERS: 45 -- Number of consecutive home-court victories for Duke until Florida State pulled off Saturday's upset.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Whenever we got up seven or eight points, they always made a run and got back into the game or tied it up." -- G Seth Curry on Duke's inability to put away Florida State, which handed Duke its first ACC loss. Now every ACC team has at least one conference defeat.


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--at Maryland, Jan. 25
KEY MATCHUPS: The Blue Devils haven't always been strong with their perimeter defense, so Maryland's Terrell Stoglin could present trouble for them. Duke has some strength in the front court, though Maryland newcomer Alex Len might neutralize some of that.

--vs. St. John's, Jan. 28
KEY MATCHUPS: The Blue Devils have had some tussles with St. John's teams that haven't been highly ranked and this could be one of those assignments. The Red Storm's penetration can be troublesome, but Duke ought to have enough offensive answers, especially in the backcourt with G Austin Rivers, G Seth Curry and G Andre Dawkins.

FUTURES MARKET: The Blue Devils may need to get junior F Mason Plumlee more involved in the offense. He endured some foul trouble in the Jan. 21 loss to Florida State and couldn't get involved in the offense, taking four field goals. Considering has made 61 percent of his field goals, he would seem to be a bigger offensive option. While his biggest impact has come on defense, his offensive role is something the Blue Devils will continue to examine.

PLAYER NOTES
--F Ryan Kelly has had some good games in a reserve, but it took time for him to warm up against Florida State on Jan. 21. He was scoreless eight minutes into the second half before scoring eight of Duke's 11 points in one stretch. He finished with 10 points in 24 minutes, which marked his shortest playing time in five ACC games this season.

--G Andre Dawkins is Duke's leading scorer in the five ACC games, averaging 15 points per game. His scoring average has been buoyed by making 17 of 34 three-pointers during the last four games.

--F Mason Plumlee, whose free-throw shooting had been a detriment for weeks, has broken out of that funk. He has made 10 of 13 foul shots in his last three games.


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