After its celebrated victory over No. 3 North Carolina Wednesday, Duke could have stumbled into its next game with a hangover.
The Blue Devils sweated out any trace of it during the first half Saturday against Boston College.
Despite a 28-point effort from the Eagles' Tyrese Rice, No. 2 Duke (21-1, 9-0 in the ACC) found its rhythm in the second half against the Eagles (12-10, 3-6) to beat Boston College 90-80 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The win extended the Blue Devils' winning streak to 11 games.
Kyle Singler and DeMarcus Nelson bolstered the Blue Devils' scoring, posting 24 and 23 points each, respectively.
"I was more worried about the game today than the game Wednesday," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I knew we would be ready Wednesday. For the last two days, I've been on them like crazy. We just weren't sharp."
Krzyzewski was right, as Duke visibly struggled with its shooting in the first half. At the break, the Blue Devils were 4-for-13 from the free-throw line and 3-for-14 from beyond the arc.
Boston College, on the other hand, stretched a first-half lead to eight points with fewer than five minutes left. Duke chipped away, however, and Lance Thomas converted Singler's last-second 3-point attempt to a layup as the Blue Devils ended the half down, 41-42.
"We just didn't get back in transition in first half," said Thomas, who scored six points. "We turned the ball over and our defense wasn't very good in the first half."
After the break, the Blue Devils wore down Boston College-with help from Nelson.
At halftime, Thomas said, the senior captain had taken control of the team and had them focus on the second half. On the court, Nelson's play set Duke's tone for the remainder of the game.
"In the first half, I didn't think he had his edge and was more of an ordinary good player," Krzyzewski said. "He's been a great player for us. We told him, the season is about you being extraordinary. In the second half, he had his edge and it affected our team. He can't lose his edge."
As Nelson regained his composure, so did the Blue Devils.
Despite Rice's brilliant performance, Duke embarked on a nine-point run early in the second period. One minute into the half, Nelson nabbed the ball as the Eagles brought it up the court and popped it out to Greg Paulus at the top of the arc. Paulus, who went 0-for-3 in the first half, sunk the 3-pointer for his first basket of the game.
Following Paulus' three, Nelson drove down the left lane for a layup. The Blue Devils continued to hold the Eagles without a basket, and Nelson found Paulus again a minute later for a second three from the right side. Paulus turned to pump up the crowd, waving his arms in the air while walking off the court for a timeout as the fans exploded.
"Throughout the season, when we've gotten down, we have put together some runs," said Singler, who pulled down 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double. "That was very important in this game, to have a couple of runs throughout the game. In the first five minutes of the second half, put together a little run there. It gave us confidence and a lift."
That lift was exactly what Duke needed. Tensions increased as Boston College came back to regain the lead once more early in the half before a final, foul-ridden stretch in which the Blue Devils prevailed. Duke's efficiency in the last five minutes, however, was too much for the Eagles as the Blue Devils handed them their sixth consecutive loss.
"We played a very confident basketball team in the second half and won," Krzyzewski said. "We need to take this weekend off and get rest and get ready again. It's a long season. Our line between winning and losing is not a wide one."
NOTES: After missing 10 games with a foot injury, sophomore center Brian Zoubek returned to the floor Saturday for two minutes in the middle of the first half. He recorded a personal foul on his first play, missed a free throw and collected one block.
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