Winston-Salem, NC (Sports Network) - Seeking the consistency the team had earlier in the season, the fifth-ranked Duke Blue Devils play a couple of games outside of Durham this week, starting with Wednesday's ACC showdown with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils have been ranked atop the polls twice this season, and with victories over teams like Kentucky, Minnesota, VCU, Louisville and Ohio State, the lofty status was certainly justified. However, ACC play has caught up to Duke, which has split its last four games, with losses at NC State and at Miami-Florida and wins at home against Georgia Tech and most recently, Maryland (84-64).
A lack of consistency is something that has plagued Jeff Bzdelik's Demon Deacons all season long. Wake Forest comes into this contest at a mere 10-9 overall, a mark that includes a 3-4 league ledger. The Demon Deacons have lost three of their last four outings and unfortunately, were unable to build on a shocking upset of nationally-ranked NC State last week by dropping an 82-62 decision at Georgia Tech this past weekend.
Duke holds a 161-77 advantage in the all-time series with its local rival and has won the last six meetings. The Blue Devils are seeking the regular-season sweep after posting an 80-62 victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the ACC opener on Jan. 5.
It was all about the starting five for Duke last time out, as the quintet combined for 79 of the team's 84 total points in a 20-point romp over the Terrapins. Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon netted a career-high 25 points to lead the way. Mason Plumlee poured in 19 points, followed by Seth Curry (13 pts), Quinn Cook (11 pts) and Amile Jefferson (11 pts). Duke doled out a season-high 18 assists in the win, was 11-of-22 from 3-point range and only turned the ball over four times (the fewest in a game since 2002).
Duke boasts of a +15.0 scoring margin, so the team possesses the ability to win games at either end of the floor. The Blue Devils are averaging 78.2 ppg and are one of the nation's top 3-point shooting teams at .411 (fifth nationally). Despite the long-range accuracy, Duke is led by the interior dominance of Plumlee. The senior forward is shooting a hefty .582 from the floor and leads the team in both scoring (17.4 ppg) and rebounding (11.2 rpg). Curry (15.7 ppg) is the team's resident sniper (.429 from 3-point range), especially with Ryan Kelly (13.4 ppg) sidelined with a foot injury. Sulaimon (12.0 ppg) and Cook (11.1 ppg) add to the scoring deluge.
C.J. Harris netted 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but it did little to keep Wake Forest competitive in a rout by Georgia Tech last weekend. Travis McKie added 10 points, Codi Miller-McIntyre finished with nine points, while Devin Thomas tallied eight points and 13 rebounds. However, Wake shot just .351 from the floor in the loss, while the Yellow Jackets drained .542 from the field.
A lack of scoring depth is the primary concern in Winston-Salem this season. The Demon Deacons are averaging just 68.1 ppg this year, and are fueled primarily by the one-two punch of McKie and Harris. McKie is the team's frontcourt presence, leading the way in both scoring (15.1 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 rpg). Harris is the top scoring option in the backcourt, netting 14.8 ppg. Miler-McIntyre is a distant third at 8.3 ppg.