Devils Hope To Reverse The Trend

After losing at Maryland, Duke will look to reverse a trend of North Carolina wins in Cameron. Currently the Tar Heels have won four straight. A fifth would likely cost the Blue Devils a share of the regular season title.

Duke has another crucial game against North Carolina to end the regular season, though this time the stakes aren't all that high for the Tar Heels.

But Duke must win or risk losing at least a share of the ACC regular-season championship.

The home finale comes Saturday night and will come with the normal fanfare, in addition to activities throughout the day and the ESPN GameDay crew on site.

The Blue Devils still have a chance to claim the 12th regular-season title in 30 years under coach Mike Krzyzewski despite losing to Maryland on Wednesday night.

"We've worked for it," Duke senior forward Lance Thomas said. "We've worked for it and we want to finish it off."

Duke could be in line for a No. 1 regional seed in the NCAA Tournament, though during a week with Maryland and North Carolina on the schedule that wasn't an issue the Blue Devils were interested in discussing.

Duke completed an undefeated February for only the fourth time in Krzyzewski's time as the team's coach. The month of March didn't start so well, but with victories in eight of the last nine games there's still a good portfolio for Duke.

The Blue Devils are usually good at deflecting distractions and they'll be wise to do that with for Senior Night against North Carolina.

MARYLAND 79, DUKE 72: Duke failed to get shots to fall in clutch situations and that allowed Maryland to pull away and move into a tie atop the ACC standings with one game remaining for each team. The Blue Devils made only 12 of 36 shots (33.3 percent) from the field in the second half.

Their four interior players combined for 13 points, which weren't enough to complement the team's regular top three scorers. Duke was denied in trying to win for the sixth consecutive time in a conference road game.

NOTES, QUOTES

--F Kyle Singler played all 40 minutes in the game against Maryland. He was the only player on either team to hold that distinction. Yet his numbers were rather ordinary, with 14 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal and one blocked shot. He wore down two seasons ago as a freshman, but he said he's conditioned better to handle extended playing time as a junior.

--G Jon Scheyer is one of the top candidates for ACC Player of the Year along with Maryland senior guard Greivis Vasquez. Scheyer scored 19 points on 7-for-21 shooting Wednesday night, while Vasquez pumped in 20 points on 6-for-13 shooting. Scheyer's four turnovers were uncharacteristic.

--C Brian Zoubek was saddled with four fouls in 14 minutes in a scoreless performance at Virginia, but he responded with 13 rebounds (of the team's 36 total) at Maryland. It was his second big rebounding game of the season against the Terrapins. His home finale comes Saturday night against North Carolina during a stretch of his career when he has become more appreciated for his contributions than during his first three seasons.

ON THE SPOT: The Blue Devils can't afford a letdown with North Carolina coming. That would sound rather unusual on the surface. The Tar Heels have won back-to-back games, something they hadn't done since December.

However, Duke has lost four in a row at home to North Carolina and considering how the teams have fared this season, another loss for the Blue Devils to their rivals at home would be considered a disaster.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I want to do anything that I can to help them out. If they have a bad game one time, I don't want to lose." -- C Brian Zoubek, talking about high-scoring teammates Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP: The Blue Devils enter March on an eight-game winning streak with two regular-season games to play. Duke is in position to contend for a No. 1 regional seed for the NCAA Tournament, but the first matter of business is to nail down the regular-season championship in the ACC.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Jon Scheyer, G Nolan Smith, C Brian Zoubek, F Kyle Singler, F Lance Thomas. Key Subs -- F Miles Plumlee, F Mason Plumlee, F Ryan Kelly, G Andre Dawkins.

GAME REVIEW:

  • Duke 67, Virginia Tech 55
  • Duke 70, Tulsa 52
  • Duke 67, Virginia 49
  • Maryland 79, Duke 72
GAME PREVIEW:
  • North Carolina, Saturday, March 6
  • vs. TBD, ACC Tournament quarterfinals, Greensboro, N.C., Friday, March 12

IN FOCUS: The regular-season ACC title comes down to this: Duke-North Carolina.

Well, at least in this sense -- Duke wins the ACC title with a win, stepping back in front of Maryland and others with tiebreaker advantages. The Saturday night primetime game is being featured, as usual, before the start of next week's ACC tournament. That might be the only postseason tournament North Carolina is invited to, while Duke is playing for a No. 1 regional seed in the NCAA Tournament.

ROSTER REPORT:

--Junior G Nolan Smith has been a defensive standout for much of his time in a Duke uniform. He has accomplished much of this by sticking to the basics against key players from opposing games. So it might have surprised some observers when his four steals against Tulsa marked a career high in that category. He had been credited with three steals in seven previous games in his career.

--C Brian Zoubek has fouled out in six of 29 games this season.

--F Mason Plumlee hasn't shown much range even though he has connected on two 3-pointers (in seven attempts) and he's barely above 50 percent on free throws as a freshman. Through Sunday's game, 21 of his 42 field goals were dunks.


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