Duke is still undefeated and atop the rankings, but it looked a bit vulnerable over the weekend.
The top-ranked Blue Devils look to shore up some of the problems that troubled them last time out when they visit Florida State on Wednesday night.
After winning its first 14 games by an average of 25.9 points, Duke (15-0, 2-0 ACC) received a bit of a scare Sunday against Maryland. The Blue Devils trailed by six points early in the second half - their largest deficit of the season - before rallying for a 71-64 victory, their 25th in a row.
“I’m very pleased to have won the game and in the manner that we did because we could have been dead in the water,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
The Terrapins were determined to slow down ACC leading scorer Nolan Smith, hounding him defensively and clogging the lane. Smith still finished with 18 points - 1.5 shy of his average - but it wasn’t easy, as he missed 13 of 18 shots.
“Going into every game, nobody has said, ‘Let’s not guard Nolan Smith,’ so I know that teams are going to try to defend me, try and go at me even harder, going forward,” said Smith, who had his streak of 20-point games snapped at five.
Although Maryland did a good job of frustrating Smith, that seemed to open things up for Kyle Singler, who finished with 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting. Sophomore Seth Curry also got some open looks and finished with 12 points.
The Blue Devils hope to learn from this in case the big and athletic Seminoles use a similar strategy.
“Every ACC team that we play this year will be a good game, and if we don’t play well, we can get beat,” said Singler, who is averaging 21.0 points in his last six games. “We have to know that and come into every game ready to play.”
Duke is off to its best start since the 2005-06 team won its first 17, matching the school’s best opening.
Florida State (11-5, 1-1) has not enjoyed the same amount of success lately.
The Seminoles are coming off Saturday’s 71-59 loss to Virginia Tech, their third defeat in four games. That lone win, however, came over then-No. 15 Baylor in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii on Christmas Day, snapping a four-game skid to Top 25 teams.
Florida State hardly looked capable of knocking off the nation’s No. 1 team with its performance against the Hokies.
Chris Singleton had another strong performance with 22 points and eight rebounds, but the rest of the Seminoles’ starting five combined for just 27. Singleton is averaging 21.8 points and 9.3 rebounds in his last four games after averaging 12.8 points and 5.3 boards in his previous four.
The Seminoles, though, shot 35.5 percent and turned the ball over 19 times Saturday, and are averaging 64.2 points on 37.1 percent shooting in their last five games.
This could spell trouble for trying to keep pace with Duke.
The Blue Devils, winners of 27 in a row against unranked opponents, are averaging 90.4 points on 53.2 percent shooting in their five games away from Durham.
The only meeting between these schools last season came at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 27, as Singler had 20 points and Smith added 11 in a 70-56 win.
Duke has won five straight over Florida State and 10 of the last 12 meetings. The Blue Devils have a 30-6 all-time advantage in this series.