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Duke tries to maintain momentum against BC

Coming off its biggest win of the season, No. 2 Duke will look to avoid a letdown when it returns to Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday to take on Boston College at 1 p.m.

Saturday's contest with the Eagles has all the makings of a classic trap game for the Blue Devils. Duke (20-1, 8-0 in the ACC) beat arch-rival and third-ranked North Carolina on the road Wednesday night in one of the team's best performances of the season. And this Wednesday, the Blue Devils host Maryland, the only ACC team to come within 10 points of Duke halfway through the conference slate.

The Blue Devils know better, however, than to look beyond Boston College (12-9, 3-5). The Eagles claimed road wins at Maryland and Michigan to go along with a 39-point drubbing of Wake Forest at home.

Those wins, though, came earlier in the season before Boston College's current five-game losing streak erased its 3-0 conference start and brought the Eagles firmly down to earth.

"The UNC win is over," sophomore forward Lance Thomas said. "Right now, it's time to refocus and get ready for Boston College. We can't overlook any team just because we got a big win against a very good team."

Thomas is one of the Blue Devils who stood out most Wednesday night at the Smith Center, registering a season-high 10 points while playing solid interior defense in the 89-78 win.

The forward will be a part of an undersized Duke lineup that will once again battle a bigger frontcourt. While 6-foot-11 Tyrelle Blair and 6-foot-10 John Oates constitute the tallest interior duo the Blue Devils have faced this season, neither is the focal point of the Boston College offense.

Duke may be helped on the inside with the potential return of center Brian Zoubek. The 7-foot-1 sophomore, out since the first week of January with a broken metatarsal on his left foot, has been practicing with the team and could see action Saturday.

"It would help us out a lot," Thomas said. "It's different not playing with Brian. He's doing everything he needs to do to get back on the court."

With or without the biggest man on their roster, the Blue Devils will have to focus their defensive attention on one of Boston College's smallest players: 6-foot-1 do-everything guard Tyrese Rice. The junior is second behind UNC's Tyler Hansbrough in the conference in scoring, pouring in 19.5 points per contest. Rice also averages over five assists a game and leads the ACC in minutes played.

"We just have to play good, honest defense [on Rice]: staying in front of him and making sure we stop his penetration and rebound his misses," Thomas said.

Last season, Thomas was a big factor in slowing Rice by aggressively hedging screens and doubling the guard on the perimeter. The pressure limited Rice's production while also preventing the Eagles from getting into rhythm offensively.

Duke seems to have found a formula for success against Boston College, having won all four meetings between the two teams since the Eagles entered the ACC in 2005. BC won nearly two-thirds of their conference games its first two seasons in the ACC, but the Blue Devils remain the one conference foe the Eagles have yet to defeat.

Even with a two-game lead in the conference after Wednesday's win, the Blue Devils know they can't afford to let up.

"I carry [the momentum from the UNC game] over by doing the things I've done leading up to that game and not being satisfied, playing with the same edge and the same energy, and more games like that will come," Thomas said.

The whole Duke roster will try to adopt Thomas' attitude Saturday, hoping to maintain the Blue Devils' perfect record against Boston College and in the ACC.


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