Duke-Wake Forest Preview
After recording a perfect ACC regular-season road slate a season ago, Duke has failed in two such games this season.
The fifth-ranked Blue Devils will be heavily favored to end those woes Wednesday night against a Wake Forest team it beat by 18 points earlier this month.
Duke (17-2, 4-2) won all eight conference road games in 2011-12, but it is off to an 0-2 start this season. The Blue Devils fell 84-76 at then-No. 20 North Carolina State on Jan. 12 before last Wednesday's stunning 90-63 defeat at then-No. 25 Miami.
The loss to the Hurricanes was the third-worst by a No. 1 team, Duke's worst in the regular season since 1984 and caused rumors of an overnight practice by Mike Krzyzewski that the coach denied.
Krzyzewski has a simple explanation for the road woes.
"Winning on the road is not passed down," Krzyzewski said. "You have to be able to be tough enough to win on the road. With us, we usually play in a very upbeat atmosphere. Teams are even more ready to play us."
Duke has won six straight over Wake Forest (10-9, 3-4), including 80-62 in its ACC opener Jan. 5.
The Blue Devils had third-leading scorer Ryan Kelly then. Wake Forest has become Kelly's personal punching bag over the years as four of his five career 20-point games have come against the Demon Deacons, including a 22-point effort earlier this month.
Wake Forest does not think that it is getting a major break Wednesday with Kelly out indefinitely with a right foot injury.
"Obviously Ryan Kelly's presence allows them to space the court better, but they're going to do what they do," coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "They're going to defend and they're going to move the ball, and they're going to be aggressive with their mentality."
The Demon Deacons are 8-2 at home with a 3-0 ACC mark as they look to bounce back from Saturday's 82-62 defeat at Georgia Tech.
Senior guard C.J. Harris is averaging 12.6 points in five career games against Duke while junior forward Travis McKie is averaging 16.0 points on 57.1 percent shooting in four. They combined for 41 points in the first meeting.
Perhaps Duke's best performance in four games without Kelly was Saturday's 84-64 victory over Maryland. Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon scored a season-high 25 points and Mason Plumlee added 19 as the Blue Devils shot 52.4 percent.
"It's a period of adjustment," Krzyzewski said. "You'd rather not go through it, but we're going through it. We saw some progress on Saturday."
One part of that adjustment is increased minutes to freshman Amile Jefferson, who is averaging 10.0 points on 51.5 percent shooting and 7.0 rebounds since Kelly went down. Jefferson, who has started the last two contests, logged four scoreless minutes in the first Wake Forest game.
"The team had a whole new identity when we lost Ryan," he said. "Losing him, you almost have to change to continue to have the same sort of success that we had when he was here."