ACC Basketball: Duke 92, Loyola 51
By Aaron Beard
DURHAM ó Fifth-ranked Duke got a scare in its last game before starting Atlantic Coast Conference play ó and it had nothing to do with Loyola of Maryland.
Kyle Singler scored 20 points to help the Blue Devils beat the Greyhounds 92-51 on Wednesday despite playing much of the game without starting point guard Nolan Smith, who injured his left knee midway through the first half and didn’t return.
Smith, the sophomore who replaced senior Greg Paulus in the starting five, banged knees with another player while going up for a rebound. He hopped to the edge of the court and was examined by team medical personnel, though the sophomore said afterward it appears to be only a bone bruise.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski said Smith would have a thorough exam, including an MRI, but that it appeared the Blue Devils had dodged what would have been a key injury heading into Sunday’s game here against Virginia Tech.
“I think the initial prognosis is good,” Krzyzewski said. “The thing I worry about for a kid is that it’s going to be a season-ending injury. … I don’t think it’s that, and that’s relieving to me.”
Smith’s injury aside, things went pretty smoothly for the Blue Devils (11-1) in their first game after an 11-day break for Christmas. Gerald Henderson added 19 points and was one of four players in double figures, while Duke jumped to an early double-digit lead on Loyola (4-9) and never looked back.
The Blue Devils shot 55 percent despite missing 11 of 12 3-point tries, and scored 34 points off 24 turnovers to extend their nonconference winning streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium to a national-best 66 games ó a span of nearly nine years.
Now the Blue Devils can turn their attention toward the ACC, where they were picked to finish second behind top-ranked North Carolina.
“I think ACC games are definitely a little higher intensity, especially the first one,” Henderson said. “It’s going to be a different kind of game. It’s a game where you see what you’re playing for. In regular-season (non-ACC) games, you’re trying to win obviously, but there’s nothing really at stake. In the ACC, there’s something more at stake.”
Smith came in averaging 11.5 points and had started 10 of 11 games this season, but managed just 6 minutes before going down with 8:31 left in the opening half. He spent the rest of the game with ice on his knee while wearing his warmups or standing gingerly at the back of huddles during timeouts.
It is the same knee he sprained last year against Maryland.
“I was nervous. I didn’t want it to be anything serious with this being the knee I’ve hurt,” Smith said. “They said I should definitely be back. I’m just going to ice it and should be ready (against the Hokies).”
Paulus, who had started all but eight games in the past three seasons, took over for the Blue Devils and finished with four rebounds and four assists. Jon Scheyer also played some point and finished with 12 points.
Loyola came into the game with confidence after a 62-60 loss at another ACC school ó North Carolina State ó on Monday night. In that game, Loyola rallied from an early 18-4 deficit to tie the game at halftime, then cut a 16-point deficit with 81/2 minutes left to a point before missing a shot for the lead in the final seconds.
But the Greyhounds quickly found out that pulling off a similar comeback against Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils just wasn’t going to happen.
Duke took an almost identical early lead to N.C. State, then used a pair of free throws after a technical foul on Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos to start a 12-2 spurt that pushed the lead to 30-12.
Brian Rudolph had 13 points to lead Loyola, which shot 32 percent for the game.
“We played our game,” Patsos said. “We tried to drive and stuff. … The one thing (Krzyzewski) kind of lets you do is drive it and we did OK at it. They’re a top-five team, a Final Four team. They have depth and they play really good defense, so they’re really good.”
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