Smith, Curry lead Duke past Boston College 84-68

The Duke Blue Devils pushed their season record to 19-1 but more importantly they now stand atop the ACC with a 6-1 mark.  In fact, in the locker room was a large standings board so there is more than a little focus on winning their league.  Here are some game notes -

Seth Curry gets untracked

One of the things the Duke staff has been hoping for is that Seth Curry start knocking down his perimeter shots.  Curry had a career high 20 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the field but he played a good floor game as well tallying 3 assists and 3 steals.  If Curry can build on this performance it'll certainly bode well for the Blue Devils down the stretch.  Krzyzewski praised his overall game in the post game press conference and said he's been getting better.  His career high was 35 against VMI two years ago.  He played a season high 33 minutes tonight.

Ryan Kelly nails 18 straight

The Duke record for consecutive made shots is 20 and that feat was done by the colorful Alaa Abdelnaby in 1989.  Kelly fell just short of that mark when he missed a tip in, but 18 straight shots?  Well, that's pretty impressive.  But it was Kelly's 4 blocked shots that drew praise from Krzyzewski.  Like Curry, Duke need for Kelly to remain consistent with his shot and continue to play a good floor game.  The four blocked shots tied a career high from the Raleigh native.

Sir Nolan Smith

I am of the opinion that Rollin' Nolan has the ACC Player of the Year Award locked up and that was before the game.  Smith put the nail in the coffin tonight with 28 points and 8 rebounds.  No ACC player has ever led the league in both categories at seasons end and there is no reason to think Smith's numbers will go too far south.  Mike Krzyzewki used the term All American in the post game press conference and I find it hard to argue with that as well.  IMO, there are four locks.  Can you name them?  Nolan has scored 20 or more points 27 time sin his career.   And don't look now, but Smith has hit 16 straight free throws.

Mason is a rebounding machine

Once again Mason Plumlee grabbed double figure rebounds with 12 for the game.  Plumlee added 8 points as well and man would those numbers of 8 and 12 on again, a consistent basis would be heavenly down the stretch.  Mason has now 10 or more carems in 4 straight contests and he has 10 or more in 10 games this season.

Cameron was flat

I'm not just saying this because Krzyzewski did, but Cameron was flat tonight and for the first time, there were seats on the side in the student section.  Come on Crazies, I praised you as the best in two decades in an earlier article this week and then you under perform?  Krzyzewski saw the same thing and FWIW, I have been here since his first season, so I know my Crazies.  There are just five home games remaining and you have two amazing seniors in Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler to say goodbye to.  You guys and gals gotta pick it up for the remainder of the year.  This was a big and or key game for Duke and that's why you saw Krzyzewski get animated on the bench in that he was trying to manufacture energy.

Streaks alive!

Duke extended it's home court consecutive wins to 31 games, the fourth longest in history and that is the longest active streak in the NCAA.  Just another reason to cheer hard for the final five games.  Duke is 60-2 in Cameron in the past four seasons.  Duke has won 12 games or more in 15 straight seasons.

Double Figures Scoring

With Seth Curry knocking down 20 points, Duke has now had an amazing number of 7  players that have scored 20 or more points this season.  Duke was just the third team this season to score 80 or more points on Boston College.

BDN Premium Interview – Prospect Alex Murphy talks Duke, Hoops and Recruiting

Alex Murphy - copyright BDN Photo

Two years ago, Alex Murphy was a reserve forward for St. Mark's of Southborough, Massachusetts. Now, he's the focal point of one of New England's best prep school teams and one of the most coveted wings in the country. Recently, the Rhode Island native visited Duke for their game against Maryland with his dad, Jay, the former Boston College star and NBA forward. After a recent game against Life Center Academy (NJ) at the Hoop Hall Classic, Murphy recounted his recent visit to Duke and discussed what he wants to improve upon before playing college basketball, his transition of necessity to the power forward position for St. Mark's, his relationship with Quinn Cook, and how he's improved since the summer.

Alex, can you talk about facing LaQuinton Ross and what he did to you guys in the first half?

Yeah, I know LaQuinton real well. We played in the Elite 24 together and I know him from seeing him around the circuits. He obviously played a great game and hurt us in the first half. He hit a lot of threes. He's a good player and he's going to get his own, but I think we did a better job in the second half of containing him and staying front of him.

You guys started to hit threes in the final quarter, gained momentum, and took the lead briefly near the end, but what happened on that final possession? What was the design of the play?

I don't really know what happened. I just, kind of, lost my footing and slipped. Like you said, we hit some threes down the stretch, and we actually went up two with just a couple of minutes left so..When Nick (Stauskas) hit that three, I thought we had the game right there, but, unfortunately, things turned and they hit a couple of shots in the last minute to [private]regain the lead and ultimately the game. Credit to them.

Another reporter: Two years ago, your brother, Erik, was going through the recruiting process. Now you are. How did that prepare you for what you're going through right now?

It's helped me a lot. Just, sort of, sitting in the backseat and watching him go through the whole thing. It definitely helped and he's been great, you know, if I ever need any help or if I ever have any questions about the whole thing, he's been there for me.

Same reporter: You came here two years ago and now you have a bigger role on the team. What's changed in two years?

Well, like you said, my role has changed in two years. I'm a bigger part of the team, but it's just a great event to be at and it's a lot of fun. I'm just glad we got to come here.

Do you have any timetable for your decision?

No, I don't have any real time set yet.

Can you talk about the great experience of playing in showcase events like this or the City of Palms? The competition, the exposure, the travel and camaraderie..

Yeah, yeah, yeah, It's a great thing both individually and for your team as well. The competition you face is obviously top-notch. So, you've gotta be ready to go from the jump. The guys you're facing every game are going to be good. We didn't show well today, but, like you said, it's a great opportunity.

What do you think you've improved upon the most since the summer, in terms of skill development? Anything in particular?

Yeah, I think I've improved on a lot. There are stretches during the high school season where you can really work on things like skill development. As you know, it's a lot different than AAU..

You guys are playing a ton of games. Realistically, more than a hundred games over a few months.

Yeah, yeah, exactly, we're playing almost every day. Two to three times a day. Teams can't scout you. There's a lot more freelancing. Not as much defense. The caliber of player is maybe a little better. Guys can't key in on you as much. High school's definitely a lot different. I'm playing a different position here now so that's been a work in progress.

You're playing the four a lot more here. On the Playaz and even last year at Saint Mark's, you played primarily the three with some spot minutes at the four, right?

Yeah, yeah, which is a little different than I played in the past..absolutely

Do you like the switch?

Um, well, I mean I guess if I had my preference, I'd like to be on the wing. I think that's more of my..

Natural position?

Yeah, it's more of my natural position, but I mean playing the four here I mean if it's something I've gotta do for my team, I've gotta do it.

In the time you have left in high school, what are the things you'd like to work on most to prepare you for the next level?

I feel like I've got to get a bit stronger. Add some muscle. I need to work on my body. Work on my agility. Get faster. I need to be able to deal with the speed or quickness in the game at the next level. It's obviously played a lot faster and the guys I'll be guarding are much faster and more skilled. So, I have to be able to match them. Those are things that immediately jump out at me. I guess I really just need to improve all around.

Do you have any visits upcoming? I know you went to Duke recently and you're supposed to head over to BC soon.

Yeah, I just went to Duke and it was a really good visit.

What did you see and do there?

Well, I mean obviously it's a great school and I've been down there before, but this was my first time there seeing a game. It was great and the atmosphere was intense. Like I said, it was a lot of fun, but, in terms of upcoming visits, I don't have any others really planned.

Did you have time to do a tour of the campus?

Not really, we went through like the pre-game all Sunday with the team and I saw the team prepare and workout and stuff. It was a night game and we actually had to head out early Monday morning to avoid the storm.

I was talking with Quinn Cook and I asked him who he was recruiting. He said he was busy recruiting three guys: you, Shabazz Muhammad, and Tony Parker. He said you three are the ones he's concentrating on.

(laughs hard) Yeah, yeah, yeah, Quinn's been really nice. He's a great kid.

Yeah, he is. He was so disappointed in the loss.

Yeah, I know. Well, same with us right now.

I know I feel like the Kiss of Death showing up outside of locker rooms.

(laughs) Yeah, no, but Quinn's a great kid obviously and I know him from Adidas Nations,

DC Assault and New England Playaz.

Yeah, absolutely, and we're in contact all of the time. He's pushing Duke hard.

How has your season gone so far? Other than today..

Yeah, other than today, it's going well. I think there's a lot of things that we can improve on and we really have to improve on in order to go from being a good team to a great team.

I like your pickup of Nick (Stauskas). I think he adds a new dimension to your team and can help you create space.

Yeah, he does. He definitely does. He forces teams to not be able to pack it in against Kaleb or just key on me. He gives us a third scorer. Like I said, though, we've still got a lot of things that we need to work on. We're improving, but today exposed some things we need to concentrate on.

Well, today from the second quarter on you guys played more cohesively as a unit, contained Ross, and scrapped to get back in the game. It was really just that first quarter where LaQuinton went nuts. He had about 21 in just over the first quarter.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but I blame that on myself. I don't think I gave him enough credit or respect for being able to consistently knock down those three-pointers. I should've guarded him more tightly or recognized it quicker. It put us in such a deficit so quickly.

It was such a freak or an abnormal quarter. As the person sitting next to me said, he hasn't shot that well from outside since he was a freshman.

Like I said, he can really play and I knew that, but I guess I wasn't ready enough.

In terms of New England, are you guys the prohibitive favorite in your league this season?

Well, there's a newly formed league this year and so there's a lot better or, at least, there are lot of good teams in our league this year. Tilton is really good.

Nerlens Noel is a very good prospect.

They're deep. Cushing is good. Saint Andrew's has some very good players. They're playing here. So, I wouldn't say we're the prohibitive favorite because there are a lot of good teams, but I will say that, as long as we keep improving, that we've got a good chance or good opportunity to win the Championship.

Thanks a lot, Alex.

Sure, no problem. [/private]

Duke Women Tune up for UConn by Walloping Clemson 92-37

DURHAM - The Duke Women demolished Clemson 92-37 to move to 6-0 in the ACC and 20-0 overall and they remain the only undefeated team in all of women's college basketball.  Of course, there next game is against Connecticut in Storr's in a game that will certainly bring in more than a few casual observers.

Once again, Coach Joanne P. McCallie utilized her whole bench as she has done all season in an effort to build depth.  And that's one thing this years team certainly has as different freshman from a very talented class are stepping up.

Duke was once again led by their senior All American leader Jasmine Thomas who tallied 14 points to go with her game high 7 assists.  She was one of five Blue Devils in double figures. 

The Blue Devils rolled out to a 59-12 half time lead in the first half and that was more than enough as they coasted the rest of the way to an eventual 92-37 win.

"Our defense was terrific in the first half with the pressure we employed.  Any time you hold a team to 12 points in a half, you've done your job," said Coach McCallie.

Duke outscored the visitors by a 39-12 score off turnovers where they forced a whopping 36 of them.  The Blue Devils dominated the paint as well where they held a 30-16 edge.  And the deep bench McCallie is grooming scored 45 points to the Tigers 16.

"We found our transition game and that created easy buckets by our running the floor," said McCallie.

The win was also the Blue Devils 20th straight in Cameron Indoor Stadium.  Duke has won 18 out of the last 21 games with the Tigers.

The easy first half brought smiles to the players and staff who realized that they were clicking on all cylinders before their showdown with #2 Connecticut in a game that tips at 7:00 EST on ESPN 2 this coming Monday.

"It's a focus game, a poise game." stated McCallie when questioned on how to beat UConn.  Then Thomas added it's a great opportunity and that is indeed true.  What McCallie was saying is that Duke must maintain their poise in a hostile environment with a team that has their ears pinned back. 

If Duke can emulate their first half performance against Clemson, then they have an opportunity to gain a memorable road win, but as we all know, beating the Huskies in their house is a tall order.  Still, if you are looking for a list of teams that could pull off that feat, these Blue Devils are at the top of the list.


Five questions for Duke Senior Nolan Smith

Nolan Smith - Photo Lance King for BDN

DURHAM - A portion of the men's basketball team met with the media today in Cameron Indoor Stadium and BDN was there in order to bring you the latest.  Here are five questions with Duke Senior Nolan Smith.

What are your general thoughts going into the Boston College game?

It's a must win for us.  It's going to be a very tough game and it's a conference game, so we've got to come out and compete, bring a lot of energy, it's just a must win.  We've got to get the win.

Nobody has ever led the ACC in both scoring and assists.  How do you manage to do all the things you've got to do? [Ken Tysiac, News and Observer]

Just stay in great shape.  I'm always doing something extra after practice like the tread mill and working with Coach Will [William Stephenson, Duke Strength Coach] One Kyrie went down, Coach K asked me to step up and do more, that he'd ask a lot more of me.  I'm just doing whatever it takes to win basketball games, be it an assist or score.  I just want to continue to play at a height level.

There was some concerne when you banged your knee at N.C. State.  Has that healed and are you feeling good?

I feel great.  We're getting a good fast paced practice in, but we also have time to get some treatments and rest, so I feel great right now.  I feel like if coach plays me those minutes  I can still do it and feel great.  I use ice bags every day after practice and they are doing everything they can to keep Kyle and me fresh so we can get those minutes.

There are a dozen games left in the season, half of those in Cameron.  At this point in the season is it in the back of your mind that you are playing your final few games in Durham?

Each game does, especially at home.  Each game I know is closer to being my last game here.  I didn't start thinking about it until recently when I sat down with my Mom to talk and reflect back and she just told me to finish strong.  She's been my biggest coach and support so each game will be very important for myself and my team.  I want to go out in Cameron as strong as I can.

And does this apply to your senior teammate Kyle Singler as well?

Definitely, yes.  We are very close friends and I've talked to him about because the end is near.  So we want to go out winning basketball games.

[All questions asked by BDN unless noted]

Boston College at Duke Game Notes

Game 20[3 AP / 3 Coaches] Duke (18-1, 5-1 ACC) vs. Boston College (14-6, 4-2 ACC) Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011 • 8:00 p.m.

The Opening Tip

• Duke (18-1, 5-1) faces Boston College (14-6, 4-2) on Thursday, Jan. 27 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tipoff is set for 8:00 p.m.

• The game is being televised by Raycom with Tim Brando (play-by-play) and Mike Gminski (analyst) calling the action.

• Duke is ranked No. 3 in the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, while Boston College is unranked in both polls.

 • The Blue Devils are looking to improve to 19-1 for the ninth time in school history. Duke has reached 19-1 in three of the last six seasons.

• Duke has won 36 of the last 38 games entering Thursday’s game with Boston College. • Duke is looking for its 25th straight win in the state of North Carolina. Duke-Boston College Series History• Thursday’s game marks the 15th meeting between Duke and Boston College.

• The Blue Devils lead the all-time series 12-2, including 5-0 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. • Duke’s five home wins in the series have been by 10 or more points.

• Duke is 8-1 against Boston College since the Eagles joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. • Mike Krzyzewski is 11-2 at Duke against Boston College.

• The Blue Devils have sold out 315 straight games entering Thursday’s contest. The last non-sellout at Cameron Indoor Stadium was against Boston College on Nov. 16, 1990.

• Five of the last six games in the series have been decided by 10 points or less. Numbers Game l The Blue Devils’ current 30-game win streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium is the fourth-longest home win streak in program history.

l Duke has only lost two home games in the past four seasons, posting a record of 59-2 in Cameron Indoor Stadium during that span.

 l Duke has won 52 straight home games against unranked opponents. The Blue Devils’ last loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium to an unranked opponent was to Florida State on Feb. 4, 2007.

l Duke has won 24 consecutive games in the state of North Carolina. The Blue Devils’ last loss in the state was at N.C. State on Jan. 20. 2010.l The Blue Devils have had at least one player score 20 or more points in 14 straight games.

l Duke has had six different players score 20 or more points in a game. Nolan Smith leads the ACC with nine 20-point scoring games.

l Kyle Singler is seven points shy of moving into the top 25 on the ACC scoring list. He enters Thursday’s game with 2,110 career points.

l Mason Plumlee has raised his rebound average by 5.5 rebounds per game from a year ago. He ranks fourth in the ACC in rebounding at 8.6 rpg. Plumlee ranks second in league play with 11.0 rpg. and 7.8 defensive rebounds per game. He has grabbed 10 or more rebounds nine times this season, including each of the last four games.

l In conference play, Nolan Smith leads the ACC in scoring (22.5 ppg.), assists (5.5 apg.), steals (2.5 spg.) and minutes played (39.2 mpg.). He also ranks second in free throw percentage (.946).

 l Ryan Kelly has made 13 consecutive shots from the field, including his last six three-point field goal attempts. He is averaging 10.5 points, while shooting 71.4 percent (15-of-21) from the field over the last four games.

The 2010-11 Duke Blue Devils prepare for the stretch

Kyle Singler is one of those special four year players for Duke. He has six more home games in Cameron Indoor Stadium as Duke enters the stretch run. Photo - Lance King for BDN

DURHAM - When Duke takes on Boston College this Thursday evening, it'll be their 20th game of the 2010-11 season.  I don't know about you, but for me the season is flying by.  In fact, it seems like a few months ago I was on the court in Indianapolis watching a group of joyous Blue Devils celebrate a national championship.

Coming into the season, Duke fans were giddy over the prospect of another title, especially with the arrival of Kyrie Irving, one of the best point guards ever to come out of New Jersey.  Ironically, Irving went down in New Jersey after stepping on Matt Howard's foot a mere eight games into the season.  Howard of course, plays for Butler the team Duke beat to win their fourth national title.

Irving's absence dominated the lips of many Duke fans for a long, long time, so much so that a portion of the season seemed to be taken for granted or lost in the shadow of his much talked about toe.  It has now become clear that if Irving does come back, that he'll need to get into playing shape, but most fans would rather have an 80% Irving than none at all.

His injury caused an always unwanted in season adjustment, where Duke, who was running at will suddenly went to more of a half court game.  The style is not as pretty but last seasons team used a similar half court sets and look what happened to them.  Of course, it is hard to repeat no matter who the cast of players might be and for Duke to make it to Houston, Texas for the Final Four, it'll take some luck along the way for they are each opponents main target and or their big game.

But let's keep in mind that some teams make their own luck and that is generally evident from improvement on the court.  Suppose Irving comes back, that would be great and he'd add that much needed ability to stretch the court.  But the lessons his teammates have learned in his absence will be of major value, especially when they face critical half court situations during March Madness.

There has yet to be a third scoring option step up since the untimely injury and now Duke enters the stretch run with just a dozen games left in the regular season to find one.  Ryan Kelly has showed the ability to do so of late, but the key will be if he can find consistency.  After all, there is usually no doubt that Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler will show up, but there are occasions when any solid player goes cold and that means others have to step in.

Each season is a new challenge and each team is handled differently. The Duke Coaches have had to adjust their game plan with the injury of Kyrie Irving.

Last season Duke had three seniors in Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek.  This season they have but two in the aforementioned Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.  Seniors have been through the wars and last years really stepped up their game and left with something special, a national title.

But last seasons three seniors had Singler and Smith behind them while this season as seniors have far less experience, so there is a major drop off from a year ago in seasoning where Miles Plumlee is the only junior on a team full of sophomores and freshman.  Duke is still a young team past two seniors, and yes, I played the young card.

Then again, Irving is young as well but he had a savvy about him that is rare, yet he was still learning the game.  Even so, Irving made Duke better, a legitimate number one if you will.  Furthermore, he was the third scoring option. 

During his absence Seth Curry has had a golden opportunity to step up but he is seemingly adjusting to the speed and physical nature of the division one game. Andre Dawkins has showed flashes of brilliance but he is still rounding out his game and the Plumlees are still finding their way.  But there is hope for even more improvement and Krzyzewski recently said he liked where the Plumlees were at this point in the season.

Miles Plumlee started slow, but he is now getting where he fits in and that's a good sign.  His brother Mason has become a rebounding and shot blocking machine and he simply needs to keep that up.  However, Mason can break out at any time on offense where he is adjusting to the slower pace rendered by Irving's absence.  In fact, both the Plumlees's are capable of turning another corner as the season goes on.

Is the Kyrie Irving era over at Duke? LK Images

During the many pre season interviews with Mike Krzyzewski, he stated this team would be a work in progress and that he did not want them to gel too early.  There is a lot of wisdom in that statement for it is clear a team must get hot for six to eight games to take home the big prize.  And his comment rings especially true with Irving's absence.

That said, it's time to relish and enjoy each and every game during the stretch run for there are a lot of questions which need to be answered.  Will Irving come back and if so what kind of game will he display?  Are two sensational seniors in Singler and Smith enough to put a team on their backs should Irving not return?  Can Curry start knocking down his shots which he drills in practice?  Can the Plumlees step up and will Ryan Kelly continue his play of late?

Maybe we'll see Andre Dawkins game swell, but who really knows?  And that is not all to watch out for.  Will Duke get the coveted number one seed where they'll play in New Jersey, Charlotte and Houston should they make a run?

With a bevy of Big East teams adorning the Top 25 a number one seed in the east is no longer as clear as it once seemed, so that means, Duke has to win it's share of games against conference foes while taking their best shots.  It's no secret that defeating Duke is a resume builder for the NCAA's and there are a lot of balanced conference teams looking for a signiture win.

Again, there is nothing more exciting than the stretch run into the tournament, so now is the time to beam in and savor each game for it will pass you by if you don't.  It all starts with an upstart Boston College team this Thursday night and this weekend Duke faces a dangerous trap of a game versus St John's in New York.  And for those of you who are unaware, the game with the  North Carolina Tar Heels is now just tens days off.

By the end of the journey, fans will find out if Krzyzewski found the right buttons to push along the way.  But it'll be up to some young players to step up their game as well.  Let the games begin.