DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—Mike Krzyzewski had his Duke players come to Cameron Indoor Stadium the day before their Atlantic Coast Conference opener to look at the countless banners hanging in the rafters.
“We tried to impress on our guys that it’s their turn to try to do something in the ACC,” the Hall of Fame coach said.
Nolan Smith and the top-ranked Blue Devils took their first step Sunday night, with the senior scoring a season-high 28 points in the 74-63 win over Miami in the league opener for both teams.
Reserve guard Andre Dawkins added 16 points for the Blue Devils (13-0, 1-0), who have won 23 straight games dating to last season’s run to the ACC and NCAA tournament titles. Kyle Singler added 14 points on a night when the Blue Devils didn’t shoot all that well but still maintained a comfortable lead for much of the game.
It was a good start as the Blue Devils aim for a 12th ACC regular-season crown under Krzyzewski. Smith had a run of 13 straight points in the first half that gave Duke its double-digit lead, and the Hurricanes (11-4, 0-1) played the reigning champions basically even the rest of the way.
“You don’t win one of those (banners) without showing up every day in our conference,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s just different. You don’t play for your total record. You play for your ACC record. That’s the way we’ve approached it, especially since the mid ’90s. And we get better as a result of doing that.”
The Blue Devils led by 13 points at halftime and Miami twice got as close as nine, the last time at 56-47 on a layup by Durand Scott with about 6 1/2 minutes to play. But the Blue Devils answered with a 7-0 run capped by a jumper and a long 3-pointer from Dawkins that made it 63-47 with 4:33 left.
Reggie Johnson tied his career high with 22 points for Miami, despite battling foul trouble much of the game.
The Hurricanes missed 14 of 17 3-point attempts and shot 37 percent overall. That included plenty of shots in the paint, particularly while Johnson sat on the bench and Smith went on his run.
“It’s kind of demoralizing when you have those bunnies around the hoop and you don’t make them,” Miami coach Frank Haith said. “We missed a lot of those in the first half. We had some open looks there at the end—guys who normally make shots … and we just didn’t knock them down.”
Smith went 9 of 15 from the field, closing his night with his fourth 3 to beat the shot clock with about a minute left.
“My teammates set some screens, got me open in transition and the shots were able to fall,” Smith said. “I think I’m at my best when I’m in the aggressive mindset to make plays for my teammates as well as myself.”
Duke has dominated the series overall, winning 10 of 11 meetings since Miami joined the ACC before the 2004-05 season. But the Hurricanes had played the Blue Devils well of late, edging Duke by one at home in 2008 and losing the next three meetings by a combined 13 points.
This one fit right in for about 15 minutes, but that’s when Smith got rolling.
First came a shot in the lane, followed by a 3-pointer.
Then another 3.
A little more than a minute after that four-possession flurry, Smith lost Scott around a screen and blew in for a slam that sent Cameron into a frenzy and gave Duke a 35-22 lead with 1:48 left in the half.
“He hit one 3 to get him going and he looked over to the bench,” Dawkins said. “I was kind of like, ‘Here we go.”’
As for the Hurricanes, they couldn’t blame their big halftime deficit on Smith alone. They shot 9 of 35 (26 percent) and made just 1 of 10 3-point tries. It also hurt that Johnson played just 5 minutes in the half after picking up two quick fouls.
“Coming into the game, Coach told me to be aggressive,” Johnson said. “If I get a foul called, I get a foul called.”
Smith has scored at least 22 points in four straight games and played all 40 minutes Sunday as the primary ballhandler with star freshman point guard Kyrie Irving still out indefinitely with an injured right big toe. Krzyzewski said Irving got a new cast earlier Sunday and the team could know more after doctors perform a new scan, likely Tuesday or Wednesday.
“As long as no surgery is needed or it appears that it might not be needed, we’re going with this course of action,” Krzyzewski said.