It took Kyle Singler most of the season to realize his lofty expectations, but now that Duke’s vaunted freshman has found a groove, he’s leading the Blue Devils on an unbeaten run through the ACC.
Singler will look to stay hot and lead No. 2 Duke to its 13th consecutive win on Sunday when the Blue Devils visit Wake Forest for the first time in more than two years.
The 6-foot-8 Oregon native had one of his best games at Duke in a 77-65 win over Maryland on Wednesday, scoring a season-high 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting - including 6-of-9 from 3-point range - and adding seven rebounds.
Singler had been a bit erratic earlier in the season, but he’s managed to find consistency in the last five games, over which span Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he’s “gone to another level.” In those games, Singler’s shot 51.5 percent, averaged 19.4 points and had two double-doubles.
“I’m a lot more comfortable out on the court, seeing more things,” Singler said. “Whether it’s through practice, the game’s slowing down and I’m picking up my shots, picking up my reads a lot quicker.”
Singler’s totaled 50 points in the last two games, leading Duke (22-1, 10-0) to home wins over Boston College and Maryland. On Wednesday, Greg Paulus added 20 points as the duo combined to shoot 10-of-17 from 3-point range.
Against Boston College, Singler and DeMarcus Nelson combined for 47 points in a 90-80 win. Before the Maryland game, the Blue Devils had scored at least 80 points in seven straight contests, and they’re third in the nation with an average of 85.7 points.
Duke, which is 22-1 for the fourth time and 10-0 in the ACC for the sixth time, is also 6-0 on the road this season, most recently having beaten then-No. 3 North Carolina 89-78 in Chapel Hill on Feb. 6.
“I think we’re a very confident team, and I think our experiences this year have allowed us to be,” Paulus said. “We understand what to do in certain situations. We’re going to be confident at all times.”
Wake Forest (15-8, 5-5) is also feeling good about itself coming off the first back-to-back wins of its ACC season. The Demon Deacons’ 78-70 victory at Florida State on Thursday was also their first on the road in ACC play, as they’re just 2-7 overall away from home this season.
Jeff Teague had 18 points while Chas McFarland added 17 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double as Wake Forest jumped out to a 41-20 lead in the first half and held off the Seminoles.
The Demon Deacons shot a season-best 56.0 percent from the field and made eight of their 13 3-pointers, starting 8-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Freshman forward James Johnson tops Wake Forest with 14.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, leading the team’s improvement after two rebuilding seasons. With a victory Sunday, Wake Forest would surpass both last season’s overall and conference win totals.
The Blue Devils have won five straight against Wake Forest, including 62-40 in Durham last season, but Duke has lost three of its last four games in Winston-Salem despite having been ranked in the top 10 each time.
Duke’s only victory there over that span came in its last visit, when it was the No. 1 team in the nation and won 82-64 on Jan. 8, 2006.
The last time Krzyzewski and first-year Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio faced off as head coaches, Duke beat Gaudio’s Army team 100-38 on Dec. 22, 1996.