Closer Look: Duke

Coach Mike Krzyzewski preaches leadership, and the Blue Devils found themselves in position in great need of that after a blowout loss at St. John's.

With the next game at always hostile Maryland, it became more of an issue.

"I would hope our leadership does come forward," Krzyzewski said.

Duke has looked to seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith for leadership. Generally, the Blue Devils have avoided major slides -- thus, their 15-2 record coming off losses in the last four years after defeating Maryland on Wednesday night.

Sometimes victories have shaded some shortcomings, and that's something the Blue Devils might have to deal with because they managed home escapes against Maryland and Virginia. Slumping North Carolina State is the next visitor Saturday night.

"I'm not sure we've come to the realization of who we need to be because we've won most of our games," Krzyzewski said.

But Singler and Smith are the designated leaders, and they appear capable of handling that role.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: The Blue Devils are eager to find more ways to get sophomore F Mason Plumlee involved offensively considering he has become such a positive factor in rebounding. His rebounding should translate into more points, and fixing some of the free throw issues that have been bothersome would help his offensive numbers. There are times this season when his abilities have been evident. This comes after his freshman season was stunted by a wrist injury in the autumn, putting him off schedule. The continuity in playing time should eventually yield more positive results. His double-double against Maryland is an example of that.

-- The Blue Devils recovered from a rough outing by winning in an unlikely venue when they toppled Maryland as seniors F Kyle Singler and G Nolan Smith combined for 43 points in an 80-62 victory. The Blue Devils overcame some early foul issues, but they stayed the course. And even when the Terrapins closed the gap to five points in the second half, the Blue Devils had a strong finishing touch. The outcome gave coach Mike Krzyzewski his 50th win vs. Maryland (opposed to 21 losses to the Terrapins).

-- The Blue Devils' next game comes against North Carolina State in a rematch from less than three weeks ago. This scheduling makeup comes from the unbalanced schedule in the ACC -- Duke hasn't played either of its matchups with rival North Carolina but has already played Maryland twice. The Blue Devils will be happy to be home after playing five of their last seven games on the road.

-- Duke altered its starting lineup Wednesday, and this was something different than earlier changes that involved frontcourt players. This time it was freshman G Tyler Thornton in the starting lineup for the first time, replacing recent G Seth Curry. This gives the Blue Devils more defense on the court at the start, and it also is designed to help take some of the strain off senior G Nolan Smith, who without Thornton in the lineup would be guarding the opposing team's primary ballhandler.

-- Duke reached the 20-game mark with a 19-1 record for the ninth time in school history. It's the fourth time in the past seven seasons the Blue Devils have been 19-1. By losing Jan. 30 to St. John's and falling to 19-2, it means Duke will have to wait before hitting the 20-win mark for the 15th consecutive season.

-- The Blue Devils could find out whether G Kyrie Irving will be available to return from a toe injury sometime during the first week in February. That's when some sort of determination about Irving could be made. He hasn't played since early December. The timing of this revelation is expected less than a week before the team's first meeting of the season against rival North Carolina, and that tends to be associated with a heightened about of interest in the Blue Devils.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- Number of times Duke has shot 50 percent or better from the field for a game this season. The Blue Devils are 8-0 in those games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Especially against us, this is one of the biggest games on the schedule for all the teams we play." -- F Ryan Kelly on the Blue Devils taking the best shot from most teams on their schedule, though Duke has scored at least 41 points in the first halves of its last three ACC games through Jan. 30.

--vs. North Carolina State, Feb. 5
This is a rematch of a road victory for the Blue Devils and they'll want G Nolan Smith to take advantage of N.C. State's confidence-shaken backcourt. Duke's post players frustrated N.C. State's interior players with their height in the first meeting and they'll be instrumental in the next clash. This is only Duke's second home game in a six-game stretch, and it marks N.C. State's first visit in two years.

FUTURES MARKET: Coming into the season, the biggest change for F Ryan Kelly appeared to be his added bulk. He needed to put on some pounds so he could compete better in the lane, especially when his playing time was limited a year earlier as a freshman because he was slotted behind F Kyle Singler. But Kelly has proven to be a valuable player on the perimeter as a shooter. He has hit on 8 of 10 attempts from 3-point range in the past three ACC games through Jan. 30, and this gives a Duke team that's heavy with shooters another player capable of launching from long range. Five Duke players have been successful on at least 17 shots from 3-point territory this season, and that doesn't include injured G Kyrie Irving.

PLAYER NOTES -- Sophomore F Mason Plumlee's streak of consecutive games with double-figure rebounds ended at five when he was held to four rebounds against St. John's. In another category, he went 2-for-2 on free throws, so his streak of missing at least one free throw in every game since the opener (except for four games in which he didn't have an attempt) has ended. He was 1-for-1 at the foul line in the first game of the season against Princeton.

- -Senior F Kyle Singler passed former teammate Jon Scheyer when he racked up his 115th career game in double-figure scoring. That's one more game than Scheyer and puts Singler fifth in school history on that list. Meanwhile, Singler has moved into the top 25 in ACC career scoring with 2,144 points through Jan. 30.

-- Junior F Miles Plumlee has re-emerged after a mini-slump. In the game against Boston College he picked up steals on three consecutive possessions and finished with a career-high four steals. He now has 17 steals compared to eight blocked shots this season through Jan. 30, perhaps surprising numbers for a 6-foot-10 player.

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