This wasn't supposed to happen after its top four scorers last season moved on to the NBA, but Duke has continued rolling through the Atlantic Coast Conference.
And today, a 75-61 victory over Wake Forest at Lawrence Joel Coliseum enabled the fifth-ranked Blue Devils to set an ACC record with their 28th consecutive regular season conference victory, surpassing the mark set by North Carolina State from 1972 to 1975. The victory also was the 1,600th all-time for Duke, which joined Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas as the only schools with at least 1,600 wins.
After two nonconference losses to Stanford and Connecticut in early November, Duke has won 15 consecutive games. It's as if the Blue Devils didn't miss a beat after Elton Brand, Trajan Langdon, William Avery and Corey Maggette turned pro, and four freshmen had to take major roles.
"I'm surprised because of the schedule we've had," said Coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team has played five games against ranked teams--four away from home. "But remember, though, we've won three overtime games [against DePaul, Virginia and North Carolina State]. . . . We've been in some difficult situations. I just want to coach this team game by game because they're too young and there's still so much to develop. But I'm proud of them. They've been a great group to work with."
Freshman point guard Jason Williams scored a game-high 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting today as Duke won its 15th in a row on the road in ACC play, tying the conference record the Blue Devils set from 1962 to 1964. Duke's last regular season conference loss was a 97-73 blowout at North Carolina on Feb. 5, 1998.
"The most important thing is we're 6-0 in the conference," junior forward Shane Battier said. "We don't talk about the streak, 'Oh, let's keep the streak alive.' We talk about winning one game at a time, and that's what Duke basketball's about."
Today, Duke beat the Demon Deacons (11-7, 2-4) in typical style--patient, consistent offense (24-of-50 shooting, 21 of 28 free throws) and relentless defense (Wake Forest shot 34 percent).
The momentum turned in favor of Duke when Battier (15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks) did what he does best--he took a charge. With Duke leading 47-43 and 11 minutes 30 seconds left, Wake Forest's Niki Arinze ended a fast break with a high-flying, crashing dunk. However, Battier, who led Duke last season with 36 charges taken, stood his ground under the basket.
On Duke's next two possessions, Battier hit a three-pointer from one corner and another long jumper from the opposite corner to make the score 52-43.
Battier's defensive play amazed even Krzyzewski. "I'm sitting there saying, 'This kid's got amazing guts,' " Krzyzewski said. "He just sees it. He's going to step in front of him. It's a huge play."
Krzyzewski played down the ACC winning streak somewhat, saying, "Every win for me is precious in the ACC. When I first got to Duke we didn't win many, so I've never lost that. I always think poor. And maybe that actually keeps us hungry."
Duke's next game is at home Saturday against Clemson, the ACC's last-place team, but on Feb. 3, the Blue Devils visit arch rival North Carolina. And senior forward Chris Carrawell said he doesn't think the Blue Devils can repeat last season's 16-0 run through the conference.
"I think we can definitely win [the ACC title]. But to go 16-0 again, I wouldn't bet on it," he said. "But we want to keep winning. If we win games, I guess the streak keeps going."