Duke holds first place in the league even as a series of different teams have popped up as the primary contender. Next, it's Virginia Tech.
The Blue Devils will take a five-game winning streak into Sunday night's home game against second-place Virginia Tech. It will be the only regular-season matchup of the season between the teams.
Duke is usually required to show a degree of toughness when matching up against Virginia Tech so the Blue Devils would be wise to find out what when awry in rebounding against Miami. Duke was outrebounded 31-29. On Miami's missed shots, Duke collected 12 rebounds and Miami retrieved the ball 11 times.
Duke's guard-oriented tendencies showed in particular ways on the offensive end. Almost half of the team's 60 shots from the field were 3-pointers (13 for 29), and the Blue Devils shot a better percentage outside the arc than inside the arc. It was mostly backcourt players having trouble from the closer range and the guards can expect more challenges on every shot from Virginia Tech's physical backcourt.
A victory against Virginia Tech might put the Blue Devils one league win away from clinching the No. 1 seed for the ACC Tournament depending on other results. But the Blue Devils must remain workmanlike in their approach, coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
"Those things go away real quick," he said of the success.
DUKE 81, MIAMI 74: Duke had a big turnaround, scoring 56 second-half points to overcome Miami, which led 37-25 at halftime. The Blue Devils endured shooting woes in the first half (10 of 32) before hitting 15 of 28 second-half shots. That included 9 of 15 on 3-pointers. Kyle Singler scored 22 points to go with 11 rebounds and junior Nolan Smith, who was barely a factor in the first half, finished with 21 points that included a career-best five 3-pointers.
--F Kyle Singler notched his fourth double-double of the season with 22 points and 11 rebounds at Miami. Three of his double-doubles have come against ACC opposition. He also managed four assists, pushing the junior above the 200-assist mark for his career. That's something that only 37 players in the program's history have accomplished.
--C Brian Zoubek was a scoring and rebounding factor against Maryland on Saturday. The senior added another category to his sudden rise in production, collecting a career-high five steals in the victory at Miami. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said Zoubek's injury-free season has made a difference in the quantity of his contributions.
--Jon Scheyer struggled with his shooting touch until bagging pair of 3-point baskets during a key second-half stretch against Miami. He finished 3-for-10 on 3-pointers, giving him at least three 3-pointers in four consecutive games and in 15 of the team's 26 games this season.
ON THE SPOT: Duke's bench isn't providing a lot of minutes or points and that could be a trouble spot for the Blue Devils when the stakes are raised.
Even though starter Jon Scheyer was on the court for only 34 minutes against Miami (a low total for him), the reserves provided little offense. Four players combined for nine points. The Blue Devils probably will seek ways to get forwards Mason Plumlee and Miles Plumlee more involved, something that was a key part of success earlier in the season especially when Miles Plumlee was part of the starting lineup.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Forget about birthdays, 1,000 games, 70 years of Cameron, all that. We're playing Maryland. You have to play for you, play for what you are doing right now with this unit, and if you do that and win, then those other things are neat." -- Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who turned 63 on Feb. 13, when he coached his 1,000th game at Duke in a victory against second-place Maryland. His record at Duke is 781-219 in 30 years.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: The Blue Devils beat their two biggest rivals in consecutive games by topping North Carolina and Maryland. They control their destiny within the league as the only team with only two conference losses. Their five-game winning streak at mid-February gives the Blue Devils their longest streak since seven in a row in December and into early January.
- Duke 66, Boston College 63
- Duke 64, North Carolina 54
- Duke 77, Maryland 56
- Duke 81, Miami 74
- Virginia Tech, Sunday, Feb. 21
- Tulsa, Thursday, Feb. 25
- at Virginia, Sunday, Feb. 28
- at Maryland, Wednesday, March 3
IN FOCUS: Duke holds first place in the ACC heading into the final weeks of the regular season. The Blue Devils could encounter several games with direct first-place implications.
--G Jon Scheyer led Duke with 22 points in the victory against Maryland. That gave the senior 100 games with double-figure scoring. This season, he leads the ACC with 13 games with 20 or more points.
--F Lance Thomas played 26 minutes against Maryland just three days after he needed assistance leaving the court with a knee injury at North Carolina. Thomas suffered a knee bruise and was considered doubtful for the Maryland game. He was limping a couple of times and wasn't considered 100 percent.
--C Brian Zoubek made his first start of the season in the Feb. 13 victory against Maryland. He made the most of it with 16 points and a career-best 17 rebounds. Those were the most rebounds by a Duke player in more than three years. No Duke player had more than 15 rebounds while playing less than 25 minutes since Chris Burgess grabbed 16 in 19 minutes against Fresno State in November 1998. Zoubek played 22 minutes.