BOSTON (AP)—Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski finally had a reason to smile after his team ended its longest losing streak in 11 years.
Josh McRoberts scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to help Duke avoid its first five-game losing streak ever in Krzyzewski’s 27-year tenure, beating No. 21 Boston College 78-70 on Wednesday night.
“It’s a big win for us. It’s a huge win,” said a smiling Krzyzewski. “We’re young. We’re getting better. We just have to keep fighting.”
Playing their first game after dropping out of the Top 25 for the first time in nearly 11 years, Duke pressured BC’s guards from the start and used an efficient halfcourt offense that led to a number of layups and dunks in beating the Atlantic Coast Conference-leading Eagles (18-7, 9-3).
“I was confident,” McRoberts said. “It wasn’t like ‘we’ve lost four straight so we’re going to lose this one.”’
Duke played smoothly for most of the night until BC made a late charge.
“We still believe in each other,” said Duke point guard Greg Paulus, who finished with 15 points. “We’ve been right there in all the games.”
One day after turning 60, Krzyzewski saw his Blue Devils (19-7, 6-6) outplay a surging BC team for most of the game. The loss snapped the Eagles’ four-game winning streak.
Sean Marshall led the Eagles with 23 points and Tyrese Rice had 22.
Demarcus Nelson, who spent most of his night containing ACC scoring leader Jared Dudley, added 15 points for Duke.
Dudley, held to one basket in the first half, got untracked midway through the second half as BC closed a 24-point deficit to six in the final two minutes. He finished with 11 points.
The Blue Devils, who led 43-32 at halftime, forced five turnovers during a 16-6 run to start the second half that broke the game open. McRoberts had their first two baskets on an alley-oop and short jumper in the lane.
“It was just a bad first half,” BC coach Al Skinner said. “There was nothing we did particularly well in the first half, and even at the start of the second.”
Duke, capitalizing on uncontested baskets, shot 56 percent in the game.
“They had so many easy baskets,” Dudley said. “Tyrese was scoring and Sean was scoring, but they had to work for their baskets. (Duke) had the lobs and the kickouts. They had so many easy baskets.”
Jon Scheyer’s jumper capped a 14-3 run that pushed Duke’s lead to 65-41 with 12:47 to play.
Boston College then closed to within six with a 29-11 run, but Duke got a steal and a layup to extend the lead to 78-70 and seal the win.
The Eagles get another chance against a Tobacco Road team again Saturday night, playing North Carolina at home in a showdown for first place.
Duke, which last lost four straight from Jan. 3-13, 1996, played for the first time after being ranked for 380 straight games.
“We lost to a Duke team. Are they a bad team? Definitely not,” Dudley said. “They were just struggling.”
The game was tied seven times in the opening 15 minutes of the first half before Duke went on a 14-3 half-closing run over the final 4:45. During the spree, Krzyzewski jumped off the bench and led the cheers, patting the backs of his players coming off the floor for a TV timeout, after the Blue Devils pressured BC guard Marquez Haynes and forced an offensive foul directly in front of their bench.
McRoberts, held scoreless for the first 9 1/2 minutes, broke free inside for a variety of alley-oops and dunks that helped the Blue Devils get untracked offensively.
Henderson’s layup started the run, moving Duke ahead 31-29, before McRoberts, David McClure and McRoberts, again, had dunks.