Duke needed to overcome a pair of sizable halftime deficits to win its last two games and remain the ACC’s lone undefeated team.
The third-ranked Blue Devils hope for an easier time as they try to stay atop the league standings and continue their dominance over Miami on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke (18-1, 6-0) beat North Carolina State 92-72 at home Thursday for its eighth straight win, but needed to rally from a nine-point halftime deficit to make it happen. The Blue Devils also trailed by the same margin in a 93-84 win at Maryland on Sunday.
On Thursday, Duke left no doubt it was ready to overcome a poor first half. It shot 66 percent from the field, went 7-for-11 from 3-point range and held a 19-7 rebounding advantage in outscoring the Wolfpack 55-26 in the final 20 minutes.
“You can’t play too much better than we did in the second half,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team looks to start 7-0 in the ACC for the second time in three seasons.
Point guard Greg Paulus had 22 points, freshman Kyle Singler added 19 and Gerald Henderson and DeMarcus Nelson each had 18 for the Blue Devils, who shot 57.1 percent and topped 90 points for the sixth time this season.
It was a season high for Paulus, who’s averaging 9.9 points and 14.6 in his last three contests. He had 15 in Duke’s 85-63 road win over Miami on Jan. 14, 2007 in the teams’ only meeting last season.
“Greg’s an intense player,” Duke’s Lance Thomas said. “A lot of people go after him, but Greg’s not going to back down. He makes gutsy plays. He’s a hard-nosed player and it showed.”
The Blue Devils will try for their 10th consecutive victory over the Hurricanes on Saturday, while looking to improve to 5-0 versus Miami at Cameron.
After starting 12-0 and being ranked as high as 19th, Miami’s once-promising season has hit a road block - especially since ACC play began.
Miami (15-5, 2-4) lost 70-68 at Wake Forest on Tuesday for its fourth defeat in five games and third straight on the road in conference play.
Despite shooting 54.9 percent and getting 16 points from leading scorer Jack McClinton, the Hurricanes fell short after Wake Forest’s Ishmael Smith hit the game-winner with 3 seconds left.
Two of Miami’s last three losses have been by two points each.
McClinton, averaging 16.1 points, has 16 in each of his last two contests and is averaging 17.2 in conference play. The junior guard, though, had just five in last season’s loss to Duke.
“Jack is our guy. Jack knows we have confidence in him,” Miami coach Frank Haith said. “I kept telling Jack, ‘You’re going to make the next shot.’ Jack is a guy who gets in a rhythm and he is tough.”
Miami has lost its last three road games versus ranked opponents dating to an 81-70 win at then-No. 20 North Carolina on Jan. 14, 2006.