END OF AN ERA
After an unexpected break courtesy of Mother Nature, it’s time for No. 8 Duke to begin its march to the end of the regular season.
Because their game at North Carolina was postponed Wednesday by the snow and ice storm, the Blue Devils haven’t played since routing Boston College 89-68 last Saturday.
One week later, Duke returns to play when Maryland makes its final visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium as an ACC member tonight (6 p.m., ESPN).
“I think our guys are anxious to play because, with the postponement of the Carolina game, it’s been a long time between games,” Duke associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “This time of year our guys want to be playing games. Guys are anxious to play Maryland.”
Duke hadn’t been in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll since the final poll of 2013 on Dec. 30. A loss at 79-77 loss at Notre Dame in the ACC opener on Jan. 4 started the Blue Devils on a freefall in the poll.
But the Blue Devils (19-5, 8-3) have recovered from their slow ACC start by winning seven of their last eight games and have climbed to third place in the league standings. Only No. 1 Syracuse (24-0, 11-0) and No. 17 Virginia (20-5, 11-1) are in front of Duke.
But tonight, Duke begins a stretch were it plays four games in eight days and, extending it out, five games in 11 days.
After playing Big Ten-bound Maryland, Duke travels to Georgia Tech on Tuesday (9 p.m., WRAL), has the rescheduled game at UNC on Thursday (9 p.m., ESPN/WRAL), the much-anticipated rematch at home with Syracuse on Feb. 22 (7 p.m., ESPN) and a home game with last-place Virginia Tech on Feb. 25 (7 p.m., ESPNU).
“At this time of year, no question guys would rather be playing games than practicing,” Wojciechowski said. “Our guys are excited about it.”
Once this 11-day stretch is done, though, Duke will have plenty of practice time before playing its final two regular-season games.
Following the Virginia Tech game, Duke will go 10 days without a game before traveling to play Wake Forest on March 5 (7 p.m., ESPN2) and closing the regular season at home with UNC on March 8 (9 p.m., ESPN).
While some would have liked to see the UNC tucked into Duke’s extended stretch of open days, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said it wasn’t fair to UNC.
“We have a weekend off,” Krzyzewski said, “but Carolina during that time plays three games in six days.”
Wojciechowski said the coaching staff can’t look at the upcoming stretch and think there’s a need to rest guys in some games to prepare for others.
“We’re trying to take it one game at a time,” Wojciechowski said. “Each game is important to us. We are not trying to look ahead to anyone. We are trying to take care of biz against Maryland.”
And as for the Terrapins (14-11, 6-6), tonight’s game will be a bit odd for Wojciechowski. He grew up in Maryland and was a prep basketball standout before playing at Duke from 1995-98 and has been on Krzyzewski’s coaching staff since 2000.
Seeing the Duke-Maryland series end because the financially-strapped Terrapins are jumping to the Big Ten for a promised revenue bump makes tonight’s game a bit different.
“It is,” Wojciechowski said. “There have been so many great games between Duke and Maryland. A lot of drama when these two teams play. We have great respect for their program, players and coaches. I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that they won’t still be a part of the ACC. It seems odd to me.”
GAME NOTES COURTESY DUKE SPORTS INFORMATION
Duke vs. Maryland
February 15, 2014 • 6 p.m.
Durham, N.C. • Cameron Indoor Stadium (9,314)
ESPN • Blue Devil IMG Sports Network
The Opening Tip
• Duke returns to Cameron Indoor Stadium this Saturday to host Maryland at 6 p.m. The game will air on ESPN2 and the Blue Devil IMG Sports Network.
• Duke’s previous game – a Feb. 12 contest against North Carolina in Chapel Hill – was postponed due to weather and will be played on Feb. 20 at 9 p.m. in Chapel Hill.
• Duke has won 29 consecutive home games, which is the second-longest streak in the nation. Duke is 13-0 at home this season and has held nine straight opponents under 70 points.
• Duke is ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 9 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. The Blue Devils are 75-17 all-time when ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll.
• The Blue Devils are 18-2 against unranked opponents this season with their lone losses coming on the road against ACC foes Notre Dame (77-79) and Clemson (59-72).
The Last Time Out
• Jabari Parker logged his eighth double-double of the year with career highs of 29 points and 16 rebounds to lead Duke past Boston College, 89-68, Saturday at the Conte Forum. Parker hit 12-of-17 shots from the field – also a career high for made field goals – while adding three blocks and five offensive rebounds.
• Duke hit 11-of-21 three-pointers, including five from Quinn Cook who scored 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 from three-point range. Cook dished out three assists and did not commit a turnover in 26 minutes.
• Tyler Thornton and Rasheed Sulaimon recorded six assists apiece while combining for just one turnover. The turnover-free performance was Thornton’s fourth in a row.
• The Blue Devils outrebounded Boston College 37-23 with 12 offensive rebounds, including five from Parker. Duke turned those opportunities into 22 second-chance points.
By The Numbers
• Duke returned to the Associated Press Top 10 Monday, climbing from No. 11 to No. 8 in the most recent poll following 20-point wins over Wake Forest and Boston College. Duke has been ranked in the AP top 10 for 302 of the past 334 polls.
• The Blue Devils are one win shy of winning 20 or more games for the 18th straight season and 49th time overall. Duke has won at least 20 games in 29 of head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 34 seasons.
• Duke has won seven of its past eight games with the lone loss during that stretch coming at the hands of now-No. 1 Syracuse, 91-89, in overtime. Duke has beaten five of those eight opponents by 20 points or more.
• The Blue Devils are shooting .420 (232-of-552) from three-point range this season while averaging 9.67 made three-pointers per game. The .420 three-point percentage would rank third on Duke’s single-season list, while the 9.67 made three-pointers would rank second.
• Since beginning conference play, Duke is averaging 12.9 offensive rebounds per game to rank third in the ACC. Duke has pulled in double-digit offensive rebounds in seven straight games and is averaging 16.8 points on second-chance opportunities in ACC play.
• Jabari Parker received his league-leading seventh ACC Freshman of the Week citation Monday. Parker, who was also named ACC Player of the Week, is just three rookie awards shy of tying the ACC record of 10 Rookie of the Week selections.
• Rasheed Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton are shooting a combined .574 (31-of-54) from three-point range since Duke began ACC play. Sulaimon boasts a .576 (19-of-33) clip, while Thornton owns a .545 (12-of-22) percentage.
• Sulaimon has scored in double figures in seven of 11 ACC games and averages 11.0 points and 3.4 assists per game in conference play. He has at least four assists in five of his past seven games and owns a 3.0:1 assist-to-turnover ratio during that span.
• Thornton has not committed a turnover in four consecutive games and has amassed 13 assists during that span. Thornton has 11 assists in his past two games with zero turnovers. The senior guard owns a team-leading 3.71 assist-to-turnover ratio this season.