After struggling to find his rhythm for weeks, Duke’s Kyle Singler finally seems to have regained his shooting touch.
The ACC preseason player of the year appears poised for another strong performance.
Singler, who has regularly frustrated Virginia Tech, looks to help the top-ranked Blue Devils win their fifth straight in the series when they visit the Hokies on Saturday night.
Duke (26-2, 12-1) is closing in on its second straight conference title, despite some sluggish shooting from Singler for most of this month.
The Most Outstanding Player at last year’s Final Four and the leading vote-getter in this year’s preseason basketball All-America team averaged 11.0 points on 32.8 percent shooting over five games from Feb. 5-20. The senior broke out of the slump Wednesday, scoring 28 points on 10 of 19 shooting in a 78-61 win over No. 24 Temple.
“You’ve just got to not focus on not shooting the ball well, because if you just focus on that, it does hinder other parts of your game,” said Singler, who equaled a career high for field goals as Duke won its seventh straight overall.
Although he didn’t have a big role in the Blue Devils’ run over the past few weeks, Singler has been instrumental in team’s recent success against the Hokies (18-8, 8-5).
Duke, which has won 14 of 16 in this series, has taken four straight from Virginia Tech since a two-point overtime loss on Jan. 6, 2007, the season before Singler arrived in Durham. He had a game-high 25 points in last February’s 67-55 win over the Hokies, and is averaging 20.3 points in four career games against them, his highest scoring average against any ACC opponent.
Nolan Smith also helped pace the Blue Devils in last season’s meeting with Virginia Tech, scoring 23.
Smith, who averages an ACC-best 21.4 points, shouldered most of Duke’s offense over the past few weeks while Singler struggled. The fellow senior averaged 25.4 points over an eight-game stretch before scoring 15 Wednesday.
While the Blue Devils are eyeing one of the top seeds for the NCAA tournament, the Hokies picked up a necessary win Tuesday to bolster their tournament resume.
Virginia Tech survived what coach Seth Greenberg called a “trap,” beating struggling Wake Forest 76-62, as Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen and Jarell Eddie each scored 17. The trio combined to shoot 19 of 27 from the floor - including 6 of 7 from 3-point range - for the Hokies, winners of three of four.
“Eight wins in the ACC is not easy,” Greenberg said. “I don’t care if the league’s good, the league’s bad - it is not easy. That’s an accomplishment with three games remaining. I’m really proud of the way this team has evolved, and now we have a chance to play the best team in America.”
Virginia Tech is 3-7 all-time against the top-ranked team but has won two of their three games against the No. 1 team at Cassell Coliseum. The Hokies, however, have lost their last three to Duke in Blacksburg.