Duke has had little trouble defeating teams from the Big Ten of late.
That likely won’t change when the sixth-ranked Blue Devils host struggling Michigan on Saturday afternoon.
For the third time this season, Duke (8-0) will face a team from that conference. The Blue Devils outlasted Illinois in a 79-66 win on Nov. 20 in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational and cruised to an 82-58 home win over then-No. 20 Wisconsin on Nov. 2 as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The Blue Devils are 59-23 all-time versus Big Ten opponents and looking for a seventh straight regular-season victory over teams from that league. Duke, though, did lose to Michigan State in the NCAA tournament in 2005 and fell 78-68 to Purdue on Nov. 29, 2003 for its most recent regular-season loss to a Big Ten school.
Duke, which hasn’t faced more than two Big Ten teams in a regular season since playing four in 1995-96, meets the Wolverines (3-5) for the first time since the 2001-02 season. Michigan looks to avoid a fourth straight loss overall and sixth consecutive defeat to the Blue Devils, who lead 17-7 in the series.
Duke, which looks to start 9-0 for the third time in four seasons, is coming off a 79-73 victory over Davidson in Charlotte last Saturday.
It was the Blue Devils’ toughest test to date as Davidson got within five points with 2:37 remaining before Duke was able to hold off the Wildcats.
“We got a lead where it was hard for them to come back at the end,” said guard Gerald Henderson, who had 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists. “They hit a few shots in the last couple of minutes, but it just wasn’t enough. We did our work before that. I’m proud of the guys. This is a good win for us.”
It should prepare the Blue Devils as they return home looking to extend their NCAA-best home winning streak over non-conference opponents to 56 games.
The Blue Devils are averaging 91.8 points in four games at Cameron Indoor Stadium this season, and their resurgent offense is a key reason for the team’s undefeated start.
Duke ranked last in the ACC with 70.4 points per game last season when it went 22-11, but with four starters and two key reserves back, along with talented freshmen Kyle Singler, Taylor King and Nolan Smith, the Blue Devils are scoring 85.6 points per contest.
“It’s just that this team has more weapons,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We’re deeper and more experienced than last year. Last year, my kids played great. They played games hurt, and young, and went to the NCAA tournament. That experience of doing that, and being tough, has translated into more maturity along with the three freshmen.”
The Blue Devils will certainly present a challenge for Michigan, which starts two freshman and two sophomores.
In their most recent outing last Saturday, the Wolverines lost 62-51 on the road to former Michigan coach Tommy Amaker and Harvard. Amaker was fired by the school last spring after failing to guide the Wolverines to the NCAA tournament in his six seasons.
Former West Virginia coach John Beilein replaced Amaker and hopes to see improvement from his young squad that scored its fewest points of the season at Harvard and is allowing opponents to shoot 43.2 percent from the field.
“My young guys’ heads are spinning about how to play college defense,” Beilein said. “Hopefully, this will be a blip on the radar screen.”
Freshman forward Manny Harris averages a team-leading 16.6 points, but had just 13 versus Harvard after averaging 20.0 in his previous three contests.
The Wolverines will be without junior point guard Jerret Smith, who will be completing some academic obligations. Smith, averaging 4.0 points in five games, was suspended for the season opener against Radford for violating a team policy regarding class attendance.
Michigan will face its third ranked opponent this season after losing to then-No. 5 Georgetown and then-No. 22 Butler.
The Wolverines beat Duke 81-73 on Dec. 13, 1997 for their most recent victory over the Blue Devils.