Winston-Salem, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The ACC title is no longer within reach, but the fourth-ranked Duke Blue Devils still have plenty to play for, as they take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in a conference clash at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Virginia has captured the regular-season crown and the top seed in the ACC Tournament, but Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils are still jockeying for position behind the Cavaliers, and in the hunt for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament if they can run the table. The Blue Devils have been off for eight days, having last played on Feb. 25, a 66-48 blowout of Virginia Tech in Durham to run Duke's current homecourt winning streak to 32 games. The win over the Hokies improved the team to 23-6 overall and 12-4 in conference play, good for fourth place behind Virginia, Syracuse and North Carolina.
Jeff Bzdelik's Demon Deacons had a strong non-conference run at 10-3, but conference play has been much tougher, with Wake Forest coming into this contest at a disappointing 5-11. The team enters off a 80-72 loss at home to Boston College, its eighth loss in the last nine games.
This is the oldest rivalry in the ACC dating back to 1906, with this game being the 241st all-time meeting. Duke holds a sizable 163-77 lead in the series and has won eight straight meetings, including an 83-63 rout in Durham back on Feb. 4.
The Blue Devils are a rested squad and that can only help at this point in the season. The team has been an offensive force throughout the year, averaging 79.6 ppg on a solid .465 shooting. The 3-pointer has been a huge weapon in the Duke arsenal, with the team averaging 9.3 treys per game and shooting .401 from behind the arc, ranking fifth in the nation in both categories. Freshman phenom Jabari Parker is certainly in the mix for ACC Player of the Year, as he ranks third in the league in scoring (18.8 ppg) and first in rebounding (8.9 rpg). Fellow newcomer Rodney Hood (16.3 ppg) has been able to fill it up as well, thanks to a .436 effort from long range. Point guard Quinn Cook has been solid as both a scorer (11.7 ppg) and distributor (4.5 apg). Rasheed Sulaimon (9.3 ppg), Andre Dawkins (8.5 ppg) and Amile Jefferson (6.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) have made valuable contributions all season long as well.
Duke didn't have its typical game at the offensive end against Virginia Tech, shooting a meager .387 from the floor, but the Blue Devils did drain 10 3- pointers and held a 36-30 edge in rebounding, as the Hokies simply lacked the weapons to keep up. Hood went 9-of-17 from the floor and led all scorers with 21 points. Sulaimon added 15 points, while Parker recorded a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Demon Deacons overcame a six-point halftime deficit to take a lead in the second half, but the Eagles responded with a run of their own to re-establish control and went on to top Wake in Winston-Salem. Four Demon Deacon starters netted double figures in the loss, with Devin Thomas and Travis McKie leading the way with 18 points apiece. Coron Williams tacked on 13 points, while Codi Miller-McIntyre finished with 10 for Wake, which suffered a 36-21 disparity in rebounding, including allowing BC to grab 23 offensive boards.
Wake Forest has remained competitive in most games, despite allowing a little more in terms of points (70.6 ppg) than it averages itself (69.9 ppg). The Demon Deacons have been decent in terms of field-goal percentage (.450), but are suffering from negatives in both rebounding (-0.7) and turnover (-1.0) margins. Miller-McIntyre is the team's catalyst and serves as both its top scorer (13.3 ppg) and distributor (3.9 apg). Thomas (11.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and McKie (11.1 ppg) provide frontcourt balance.