DURHAM, N.C. -- This time, Duke (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) figured out a way to win without its trusty long-range shot.
Nolan Smith scored 24 points to help the Blue Devils pull away in the second half and beat Boston College 79-59 on Wednesday night, helping Duke regroup from a weekend loss at Georgia Tech.
Kyle Singler added 15 points for the Blue Devils (14-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who pushed ahead for good late in the first half and pulled away in the opening minutes after the break. More impressively, they carried their 3-point shooting struggles from Atlanta back to Cameron Indoor Stadium and knocked down just one 3, yet still won convincingly with defense and a group of big men who are giving Duke some steadier production in the paint.
"Last year we wouldn't have won a game like that," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We had to hit 3s."
That's not to say that this year's group doesn't need the 3. It's just that the Blue Devils have a few more options when that shot isn't falling.
"We're not going to live and die by the 3 this year," Smith said. "We can get it in other ways. We can drive the basket, and we have bigs who want to finish inside. Whenever our 3-pointers aren't falling, we have other ways to score."
It's a good thing, too. Duke went 6 for 28 (21 percent) from behind the arc in Saturday's 71-67 loss to the Yellow Jackets, then followed by going 1 for 12 against Boston College (10-7, 1-2). In their three ACC games, Duke is 13 for 58 (22 percent) on 3s, an unusual statistic for a team that's usually been successful from long range.
Consider that this is the same squad that entered the game shooting 46 percent on 3-pointers in its soft-rimmed home gym.
But with leading scorer Jon Scheyer having a shaky shooting night, Duke got several buckets off turnovers thanks to its defensive pressure to break open a close game late in the first half. Smith matched his career high for scoring, while Singler bounced back from a miserable day against Georgia Tech -- nine points on 2-for-13 shooting -- by pulling down 10 rebounds and getting several baskets in transition.
"It's easier making those than those tough 3-point shots," Singler said.
Reggie Jackson scored 20 points for the Eagles (10-7, 1-2), but he was BC's only double-figure scorer.
While Boston College held up through the first 15 minutes or so, the Blue Devils' pressure defense finally started to make a difference late in the first half and held the Eagles without a field goal for nearly eight minutes.
That helped Duke turn a 38-35 halftime lead into a 54-37 margin before Tyler Roche ended the drought with a runner with 14:40 to play. But the Eagles never challenged the Blue Devils the way they did in a steady first-half performance, trailing by as many as 26 points in the final minutes.
"We clearly didn't match their intensity," Boston College coach Al Skinner said. "I can't believe that we didn't come out with more energy than we did. We mishandled the basketball, we didn't execute, we missed our free throws, we had a couple of layups and we missed those.
"We did not at all really try to regroup and handle ourselves and just allowed it to happen. We've got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball and making sure that we run the stuff we want to run."
While Krzyzewski called his team's second-half defense "outstanding," Duke also dominated the paint in the second half to take control. Sophomore forward Miles Plumlee finished with 12 points, while 7-foot senior Brian Zoubek added six points and 11 rebounds -- with almost all of that coming in the second half.
Duke also finished with 21 second-chance points and scored 12 of its 17 points off turnovers after halftime.
"We didn't come out ready, and they took advantage of it," Jackson said. "They played to the crowd, and the crowd was really hyped for them tonight. They kept executing and pressuring us, and we got away from what we needed to do. They just kind of ran away with the game from there."