Duquesne opened 6-0 last season for its best start in 28 years. A trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium makes it unlikely the Dukes will be able to match that mark this season.
Seventh-ranked Duke (6-0) hosts Duquesne (4-0) on Friday in the teams’ first meeting in 31 years.
The Blue Devils have won 15 consecutive November games, 48 straight home games and 63 in a row at Cameron in non-conference play.
They’ll be facing a Duquesne team that hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since 1997, hasn’t defeated a top 10 team since 1992 and is winless against top 10 schools on the road since 1962. Duquesne is also winless in its last 12 games in North Carolina, dating to Jan. 14, 1937.
Duke also comes into this game well rested after a five-day break. A 78-58 victory Sunday over Montana capped a stretch of four games in eight days and six in less than two weeks.
For the first time in 108 games, senior co-captain Greg Paulus did not play due to a right forearm contusion. Sophomore Nolan Smith made his sixth straight start and scored 14 points to share the team lead with Gerald Henderson.
The injury forced Smith to play point guard without Paulus - a three-year starter who has come off the bench this season - as a safety net. With the senior out, freshman Elliot Williams is the first point guard off the bench.
“I just want (Smith) to keep developing,” Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’s got a tough position, and it wears on you mentally, not just physically, when you’re responsible for running the team. … Last year, he didn’t have to do this as the primary guy, and all of a sudden, this is the fourth game in a week.”
The Blue Devils went on a 30-9 first-half run and led by double digits for the final 28 minutes. Kyle Singler, who averages a team-best 16.7 points and 6.8 rebounds, finished with 13 points.
Duquesne went 17-13 in 2007-08 for its first winning season in 14 years, but the Dukes have one senior and 12 underclassmen - eight freshmen - on their roster.
Duquesne’s four wins have come against opponents that have a combined 3-14 record.
The Dukes’ lone senior, guard Aaron Jackson, had 15 points, eight rebounds and a career-high 10 assists in Tuesday’s 79-69 victory over South Carolina-Upstate. Jackson leads the team with 17.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.
Sophomore forward Damian Saunders added a team-high 20 points and 12 rebounds Tuesday for his first career double-double, while junior guard Jason Duty scored a career-high 17 points.
Despite those big games, the Spartans moved within two twice in the second half before Duquesne pulled away late by going 8-of-10 from the free-throw line.
“I’m proud of how the guys handled adversity,” coach Ron Everhart said. “We did a good job of keeping our composure.”
Duke leads the series 4-1, with the last matchup coming in 1977. The Blue Devils have won all three home meetings but haven’t hosted the Dukes since 1975.