After playing two top-25 teams on the road in its last four games, No. 2 Duke will look forward to a reprieve from hostile environments tonight when it squares off against the ACC's last-place team, Wake Forest, at 8 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Coach K Court should be a welcome sight for the travel-weary Blue Devils (23-1, 11-0 in the ACC), who are coming off a two-week stretch that featured games at then-No. 15 Boston College and then-No. 23 North Carolina.
After being selected in the preseason to finish third in the ACC, this matchup against the Demon Deacons (13-11, 1-9) was expected to have major implications in the conference standings. But Wake Forest has seen its season fall apart since last playing the Blue Devils Jan. 8.
Entering that game in Winston-Salem, Wake Forest had enjoyed an 11-2 non-conference record with the ACC regular season about to begin. Led by returning seniors Justin Gray, Trent Strickland and Eric Williams, the Demon Deacons seemed poised to roll through many of their relatively inexperienced ACC opponents and provide a challenge to Duke's own crop of veterans.
Following the Blue Devils' 82-64 win, however, Wake Forest has been unable to use its experience to put teams away in the closing minutes of games. The team has dropped nine of its last 11 contests, with its only ACC win coming Jan. 18 against 11th-place Georgia Tech. Out of those loses, five have been by six points or fewer.
"This year in the conference, I think there have been more close games than I've ever seen before," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "You can look at everyone's record, including ours, and say they could have three or four more wins, or in our case three more loses, by one possession.... In Wake's case, those possessions haven't turned out well. Then it can have an impact on the next game so you aren't building up any positive momentum."
Wake Forest's paltry conference record has also jeopardized its 15-year streaks of postseason appearances and seasons with fewer than 10 conference loses.
"It is a big deal," Demon Deacons head coach Skip Prosser said. "It's not something we're pleased with. It's disconcerting. There is no silver lining I can put on that one."
Prosser also expects his team to have a hard time stopping shooting guard J.J. Redick, who scored 32 points when the teams met in Joel Coliseum earlier this season. Redick is currently second in the nation in scoring with 28.7 points per game and has scored more than 20 points in each of Duke's last 13 games, the fourth-longest streak in team history.
"There's really no way to guard him," Prosser said. "He can obviously shoot it deep, he can go right or left, he uses or declines ball screens exceedingly well, he reads screens very well, doesn't miss free throws. Sometimes, you really go into games trying to make guys miss. Unfortunately with Redick, often times you end up just hoping that he misses."
Redick can also make history Tuesday night as he is two three-pointers shy of breaking Curtis Staples' NCAA record of 413 career field goals beyond the arc. Despite the looming milestone, the senior said that he will not let his personal accomplishments overshadow his preparations for the Demon Deacons.
"Wake hasn't had the best year in the ACC and they're desperate right now," Redick said. "When teams are at that extreme, you can expect them to play a great game. That's what I'm worried about, not some record that will eventually fall."
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