Duke-Wake Forest Preview
By MATT BECKER
(AP) -- Two days after earning a big road win over a ranked foe, Duke managed to withstand an upset bid from a lesser opponent over the weekend.
This week, it will try to avoid a letdown against an inferior team before its highly anticipated regular-season finale.
With a game against rival North Carolina that will likely decide the ACC crown looming, the fourth-ranked Blue Devils look to win their seventh in a row Tuesday night against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem.
Duke (25-4, 12-2) is tied with North Carolina atop the conference and each national power has one game to play before Saturday night's showdown at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The sixth-ranked Tar Heels, who lost to the Blue Devils 85-84 on freshman Austin River's 3-pointer at the buzzer Feb. 8, host Maryland on Wednesday.
While much of the talk around Duke is on Saturday's game, the Blue Devils can't afford to have a letdown against Wake Forest (13-15, 4-10). They nearly let one get away Saturday against a Virginia Tech team that also has only four ACC victories.
Less than 48 hours after a 74-66 win at then-No. 15 Florida State, Duke needed overtime to beat the Hokies 70-65. The game featured 13 ties and 12 lead changes, and the Blue Devils appeared a bit sluggish after Thursday's win.
"You're fighting human nature," forward Ryan Kelly said. "You just got a huge victory on the road, you're just tired and fatigued. We need to get rejuvenated for next week because it's going to be a huge week."
Before turning their attention to the Tar Heels, the Blue Devils will first try to win their fifth straight over the Demon Deacons since then-No. 6 Wake Forest upset Mike Krzyzewski's top-ranked team 70-68 on Jan. 28, 2009.
Duke had little trouble cruising past the Demon Deacons on Jan. 19, shooting 54.2 percent in a 91-73 victory. Andre Dawkins scored all 21 of his points on seven 3-pointers in the first half, while Rivers and Kelly each scored 20.
Rivers, who averages a team-best 15.5 points, carried Duke this past week, scoring 20 against the Seminoles and 23 versus the Hokies.
Dawkins finished with 22 points on 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range against Florida State but missed all three of his field-goal attempts in 10 scoreless minutes Saturday.
Seth Curry helped pick up the scoring slack, finishing with 19 points. He has topped his scoring average of 13.6 in six of his last seven games.
Duke is second in the ACC with 79.0 points per game and that offense seems like it could be too much for Wake Forest, which has been outscored by an average of 20.0 points in losing its four games against ranked teams.
The Demon Deacons, however, finally showed some signs of life offensively over the weekend.
After failing to reach 60 points in each of its previous four games - averaging 54.3 points on 36.4 percent shooting - Wake erupted in Saturday's 85-56 win over Boston College, finishing with conference highs in points and field-goal percentage (55.4).
C.J. Harris, who averages a team-high 17.0 points, scored 23 on 10-of-16 shooting, and Travis McKie, who averages 15.9 points, had 21 on 7 of 11 from the field. Harris and McKie also had some success against Duke last month, finishing with 20 and 16 points, respectively.
While the Blue Devils are seeking a second ACC regular-season crown in three years, the Demon Deacons are trying to avoid a second straight last-place finish. They're a game ahead of Georgia Tech and Boston College and conclude the season Saturday on the road against the Yellow Jackets.
"Everybody's acting like our season's done - we're far from done," freshman Chase Fischer said. "We're going to finish out strong."
Updated February 27, 2012