BOSTON — Duke players might have been looking ahead to this weekend’s game against North Carolina because they came out very slow out of the gate.
Vernon Carey Jr. had 17 points and 10 rebounds, making a layup and then two free throws with about six minutes left during a 10-0 run that helped Duke (19-3. 9-2 ACC) beat Boston College 63-55 at Conte Forum in Boston.
“They didn’t listen to me,” Mike Krzyzewski said on Tuesday night after the seventh-ranked Blue Devils rallied from a 10-point deficit in the first half.
Tre Jones who was a problem down low scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half to help Duke escape with their fourth straight win.
“It’s stupid not to listen. I’ve warned them two days about it,” said Krzyzewski, who earned his 500th career Atlantic Coast Conference victory. “I don’t look at those upcoming games because I’ve been beaten by human nature. We’ve won a lot of games, but I’ve had losses to human nature. That’s all I was telling them: ‘Take a look. Louisville’s very good, and they were kicking their butt.’
Derryck Thornton scored 21 points and Steffon Mitchell had 12 rebounds for Boston College (11-12, 5-7), which lost by 39 points at Duke on Dec. 31 but was coming off a one-point win at North Carolina. BC went scoreless for more than four minutes down the stretch and missed a bunch of shots to trim the deficit.
“We lost our poise there,” BC coach Jim Christian said. “You can’t lose poise when you’re playing the No. 7-ranked team in the country. You can’t lose poise for two minutes.”
Boston College scored the first six points of the game and led 12-2. Duke missed 10 straight shots and looked dysfunctional in the opening minutes of the game. The Blue Devils settled down to go on a 9-2 run. It was 16-11 when Cassius Stanley dunked from a nice alley-oop from Jack White. Wendell Moore made a jumper and Carey followed with a layup to give the Blue Devils their first lead of the game, 17-16, with just over six minutes left to play in the first half.
Both teams went cold in the half. The Blue Devils missed all 12 of its 3-point attempts in that half; BC was 0 for 9.
Krzyzewski, the all-time winningest coach in Division I basketball, improved to 500-200 in the ACC regular season and tournament.
It wasn’t until Nik Popovic who had hit nine 3-treys all season — made one with about 11 minutes left that broke the slump. They had combined to miss their first 26.
The Blue Devils finished 1 for 15 from 3-point range and the Eagles were 2 for 18. The made 3-pointer kept alive a long streak. Duke has made at least one 3 in 1,081 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak in the nation behind UNLV ‘s 1,092 games.
“It wasn’t a good 3-point shooting night for college basketball tonight,” Krzyzewski said.
The Eagles led by four with eight minutes left and had a 49-46 lead when Duke scored the next 10 points to seal the game.
Boston College led Duke 24-21 at the half and maintained the lead for much of the second half. Duke finally pulled away with a 20-8 run over the final eight minutes. Tre Jones wouldn’t be denied in the half. Jones scored eight of Duke’s final 13 points and assisted on four more.
But through it all, the Blue Devils kept their poise and rode the wave.
By contrast, Duke led Boston College 45-19 at the half when they played on December 31, those 45 points equaling the combined first-half total of both teams Tuesday night.
In the second half, both teams traded buckets for the first 14 minutes, neither team leading by more than four points. Carey had to sit a good portion of the second half with four trouble but was instrumental when he got back into the game down the stretch.
The Dukies only hit one 3-pointer on the night but it was a big one. Trailing 47-43 Joey Baker knocked one down deep, sparking their run. Carey hit a layup and then two free throws, putting Duke up for good, at 50-49.
Duke’s defense showed up when it counted, holding BC without a field goal for almost five minutes, lots of pressure on the wings, even some zone, as the Blue Devils forced some big turnovers and pulled away.
“There was a lot going on tonight,” Krzyzewski summed up. “We feel very fortunate to have won. I think that one change (defensively) helped us and it turned out where we won. Whether we were completely deserving of winning or not, I thought in the second half, we at least put ourselves on the threshold of being deserving and we got it.”