The fourth-ranked Blue Devils will try to take advantage of their struggling ACC rivals to claim only their second victory in seven games at Lawrence Joel Coliseum on Saturday.
Since losing at Florida State on Jan. 12, Duke (17-1, 4-1) has won its past two games by a combined 30 points as senior guard Nolan Smith has continued to shine. Smith, averaging a conference-best 20.2 points, scored 29 in a 76-60 win over Virginia on Jan. 15 and 22 in a 92-78 victory at North Carolina State on Wednesday night.
The Blue Devils also had six other players score at least seven points, including Kyle Singler with 18. They need that help with star freshman guard Kyrie Irving, who was averaging 17.4 points, out indefinitely with an injured toe.
“Those seven guys outside of Nolan and Kyle, they just need experience,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “They need to do things like they did tonight and they need to do it a few more times so they say, ‘That’s what I do. It’s not what I did on Jan. 19 against State. That’s what I do.’ That’s how roles are developed, at least for us.”
Wake Forest endured its lowest-scoring game in 52 seasons Wednesday, a 74-39 loss at Georgia Tech. The Demon Deacons (7-12, 0-4) have lost by an average of 26.0 points during its worst start in ACC play since dropping 11 in a row to begin the 1989-90 season.
Under first-year coach Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest is averaging 69.8 points - second-fewest in the ACC - but is one of four Division I teams with five players scoring at least 10.0 per game.
Freshman forward Travis McKie is averaging a team-high 13.1 points, but after the top five players, no one is averaging more than 4.5 points. Duke, meanwhile, has seven players averaging at least 5.4 points and leads the ACC with 85.9 per game.
One of those players, junior forward Miles Plumlee, posted career highs of 19 points and 14 rebounds in a 90-70 home win over Wake Forest last season. Singler had a team-best 21 points and 15 boards, while Smith scored 20 points.
Singler had 22 points and 12 rebounds in the previous trip to Winston-Salem on Jan. 28, 2009, but the then-No. 1 Blue Devils fell 70-68 to sixth-ranked Wake Forest on a last-second layup.
As freshmen, Smith had 20 points and Singler added 17 at Wake Forest but then-No. 2 Duke fell 86-73 in that game. The Blue Devils’ previous win at Lawrence Joel was an 82-64 victory on Jan. 8, 2006, in which J.J. Redick scored 32 points.
Duke, seeking its 24th straight win in the state of North Carolina, leads the series 157-77, but has lost 10 of 19 at Lawrence Joel Coliseum.