Deacs must deal with battle-tested Duke

Feb. 03, 2014 @ 06:42 PM

The prevailing opinion nationally is that Duke’s 91-89 loss at unbeaten Syracuse Saturday night was the best college basketball played so far this season.

The Blue Devils were so impressive in their loss that the performance, coupled with Duke’s 80-65 win at Pittsburgh five nights earlier, caused Duke to move up in the Associated Press national rankings from No. 17 to No. 11 on Monday.

Duke’s task now, though, is to not let that near miss against the newly No. 1-ranked Orange affect it when Wake Forest comes to Cameron Indoor Stadium for an ACC game tonight (9 p.m., ESPNU).

Immediately after the game at Syracuse, Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon pointed out that the Blue Devils (17-5, 6-3 ACC), regardless of their spirited play against the first-place Orange, find themselves in a tough place in the ACC race with three losses.

“This one is going to be hard to swallow, but, at the same time, we have to bounce back,” Sulaimon said. “We have another one on Tuesday. We have three losses now in the ACC. So we can’t drop any bunnies. The next game we have might be like a trap game. We just have to let this one go and try to recuperate and get ready for the next game.”

That means getting ready mentally and physically. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said with Wake Forest (14-8, 4-5) playing good basketball, the Blue Devils must be sharp.

“The thing I worry about is that it can be emotionally draining,” Krzyzewski said Monday. “No matter what, if you won or lost, you can stay there because it was such an incredible experience — one way or another. You have to get over that. That’s what we’re trying to get over in our preparation for Wake because they are playing really good basketball this season.”

The Demon Deacons have played better at home than away from Winston-Salem this season. Wake Forest is 12-2 in home games and 2-6 in away or neutral-site games. The Deacons have one ACC road win, an 83-77 decision at last-place Virginia Tech.

But Wake has lost its last two games, both at home. Syracuse beat the Deacons 67-57 last Wednesday night at Joel Coliseum. Georgia Tech topped Wake 79-70 on Saturday.

In that game, Wake lost guard Codi Miller-McIntyre to a twisted ankle. The sophomore played just 17 minutes, scoring 10 points.

Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said Monday that Miller-McIntyre missed practice Sunday but was improving.

“He was much better Sunday,” Bzdelik said. “His ankle is improving. It’s probably going to be a game-time decision.”

Duke saw its five-game winnings streak end with the loss at Syracuse. But Krzyzewski’s hope is that the experience of playing well in two tough venues — both Pittsburgh and Syracuse have tremendous home-court records — has let his team know it can play even better.

“The two games we played last week are two games that most teams won’t play,” Krzyzewski said. “First, it’s away and, second, they are in places where it’s the biggest game. Not just for this year but for a number of years. So to be in two settings like that and play games like that are things that most teams don’t go through. Our teams over the years have gone through that a lot. This is the first time this team has gone through something like that. We have to make sure that it doesn’t hurt our progress going forward.”

Duke carries a 28-game home court winning streak into tonight’s game. The Blue Devils are tied with Florida for the nation’s longest active home winning streak.

The streak is the fifth-longest in Duke’s history. The Blue Devils haven’t lost at Cameron Indoor Stadium since North Carolina topped them 88-70 on March 3, 2012.