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(4) Duke (25-4) at Wake Forest (13-15)
Tuesday, February 28th, 9:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lawrence Joel Coliseum (14,655) -- Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Duke 13-2, Wake Forest 9-6. Away Record: Duke 7-2, Wake Forest 3-7. Neutral Record: Duke 5-0, Wake Forest 1-2. Conference Record: Duke 12-2, Wake Forest 4-10. Series Record: Duke leads, 159-77.
GAME NOTES: The fourth-ranked Duke Blue Devils have an ACC title to win, but to set up a climactic regular-season finale against arch-rival North Carolina for the conference crown, Mike Krzyzewski's team must first take care of local rival Wake Forest on the road this evening.
The Blue Devils have won six straight games to stay even with the Tar Heels atop the ACC standings. The team bolstered its current win streak with last weekend's hard-fought 70-65 overtime win against Virginia Tech. With the win, the Blue Devils moved to 12-2 in conference play.
Jeff Bzdelik's second season in Winston-Salem has been marginally better than his first, as the Demon Deacons have shown flashes of solid play, coming in at 13-15 overall. The league slate has been much more challenging with Wake sitting just outside the conference cellar at a mere 4-10. The Demon Deacons are coming off their most lopsided win of the season, an 85-56 rout of Boston College, the team's second win in the last three games.
This is the oldest rivalry in the ACC, dating back to 1906. Duke holds a 159-77 advantage in the all-time series and has won four straight meetings, including a 91-73 decision in Durham on January 19th.
The fact that the Blue Devils are once again among the ACC's most efficient squads is certainly not a surprise. Coach K is a strong disciplinarian and continues to preach the fundamentals. This year's team has bought in and is flourishing as a result. Duke is averaging a steady 79.0 ppg this year (tied for 12th nationally), while shooting a healthy .465 from the floor. Scoring depth is a strength, with four Blue Devils currently averaging double figures. Freshman Austin Rivers has made an immediate impact, leading the team with 15.5 ppg, thanks in large part to his .402 shooting from behind the arc. Seth Curry can also light it up from long range, averaging 13.6 ppg. The pair have combined for 106 three-pointers on the season. Forward Ryan Kelly has range as well (.409 from three-point Range), while Mason Plumlee (10.7 ppg, 10.2 rpg) is the primary option down low.
The Blue Devils kept pace with the Tar Heels atop the standings this past weekend with their sixth straight win, a tough 70-65 overtime decision at home over Virginia Tech. Duke got 23 points from Rivers and 19 from Curry, but it may have been Miles Plumlee's play inside that proved to be the difference, as he grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds and hit two key free-throws in the extra session.
It was once again the potent one-two punch of C.J. Harris and Travis McKie which led the way for the Demon Deacons, as the pair combined for 44 points in an 85-56 drubbing of Boston College this past weekend. The win marked the largest margin of victory for Wake Forest under Bzdelik. Harris led all scorers with 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting, while McKie poured in 21. Sophomore center Carson Desrosiers tied his career-high with 13 points for good measure in the win.
The Demon Deacons have shown glimpses of improved play this season, but the team lacks any marquee wins to feed the fire in Winston-Salem. A lack of depth behind the dynamic duo is the primary problem, as Harris and McKie make up just over half of the team's total scoring. Harris ranks third in the ACC with a hefty 17.0 ppg, shooting .490 from the field overall, including .444 from three-point range. McKie is the perfect complement up front, averaging 15.9 ppg (fifth in the conference), while pacing the team with 7.1 rebounds per outing. Guard Tony Chennault provides limited support offensively at 9.1 ppg, while leading the team in assists (82).
The Demon Deacons have struggled against the better teams on their schedule, as Harris and McKie are simply not enough to get the job done consistently. The Blue Devils aren't about to look past Wake Forest, as this weekend's clash with North Carolina looms large.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Duke 77, Wake Forest 61
02/28 10:49:50 ET
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