Duke heads to Wake looking for first ACC road win
Road warriors a year ago, the Duke Blue Devils finds themselves looking for answers away from Cameron Indoor Stadium in ACC play this season.
No. 5 Duke has yet to win a league game away from home in two tries.
Duke plays Wake Forest tonight at Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem (8 p.m., WRAL), where the Demon Deacons (10-9, 3-4 ACC) have yet to lose a conference game.
Last season, Duke won all eight of its ACC road games. The Blue Devils dropped three games at Cameron Indoor Stadium, though, to finish with a 13-3 league mark and place second behind regular-season champion North Carolina.
“It’s not passed down,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Winning on the road is not passed down. You have to be able to be tough enough to win on the road.
“With us, we usually play in a very upbeat atmosphere. Teams are even more ready to play us. As good as the team we would normally face would be, they are better when we face them on their home court. That just goes with the territory.”
The scheduling order hasn’t done the Blue Devils (17-2, 4-2) any favors, either. Duke’s first two ACC road games, at No. 19 N.C. State and No. 14 Miami, happened to be against the only other ACC teams currently in the Associated Press Top 25.
Miami (15-3, 6-0), N.C. State (16-4, 5-2) and Duke are battling for the top spot in the regular-season race. The Blue Devils trail because of their inability to win on those teams’ home courts.
Duke is not alone in this predicament.
N.C. State’s only two ACC losses, to Maryland and Wake Forest, came on the road. North Carolina has suffered two of its three ACC losses away from the Smith Center, dropping games at N.C. State and Virginia.
Virginia dropped its first two league road games at Wake Forest and Clemson.
Krzyzewski said it takes a certain toughness to handle playing away from home, and many teams haven’t mastered it yet.
“Inexperience, I think, is a key word,” Krzyzewski said. “Age has something to do with it. The older the team you have, the better chance you have for consistency both home and away because they’re older. They get it.”
Duke has two senior starters in Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee. The team’s third senior starter, Ryan Kelly, missed both road losses with a foot injury.
Miami — with seniors Durand Scott, Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble in the starting lineup — has been the exception to the league’s road issues. The Hurricanes already have wins at Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Boston College.
Duke has been weak defensively in its two ACC road losses. N.C. State shot 50.8 percent in beating the Blue Devils 84-76 on Jan. 12 in Raleigh. One week ago, Miami made 56.9 percent of its shots in a 90-63 shellacking of the Blue Devils at Coral Gables, Fla.
The Blue Devils also shot a season-low 29.7 percent at Miami, which contributed to the lopsided score. Duke shot much better back home on Saturday against Maryland, making 52.4 percent of its shots in an 84-64 win.
Curry said playing better defense against Maryland contributed to better offense. Its something he hopes the Blue Devils continue at Wake Forest tonight.
“Honestly, that’s what it was,” Curry said. In the Miami game, we got good shots. We got the shots that we wanted — none of them went in, whether it was our mentality or the way we shot them or we were taken aback by how they were scoring on us. But we got the same shots (against Maryland) and knocked them down.
“Against Miami, they were scoring, it seemed like, on every possession and we felt like we had to score. (Against Maryland), we were able to relax offensively and knock down shots.”