DURHAM, N.C. (AP) - For a brief while, it looked as if a brutal week for the nation's top teams might end with yet another upset - and this time, it was Duke's turn.
Then came a rare ``T' on Coach K.
Suddenly, the fifth-ranked Blue Devils had the look of a No. 1 team once again - even if they downplayed the significance of possibly reclaiming that ranking following their 79-57 rout of Georgia Tech on Sunday night.
``Being No. 1 right now doesn't matter at all,' guard Nolan Smith said. ``Last year's team, we weren't No. 1 until the end. If we get it, it's cool, but if not, we're not worried about it.'
Smith scored 28 points, Kyle Singler added 15 and Ryan Kelly had 10 for the Blue Devils (25-2, 12-1 ACC), and a technical foul on coach Mike Krzyzewski inspired the overwhelming run that carried Duke to its sixth straight win and 10th victory in a row in conference play.
The reigning national champions held the top spot in the preseason poll but slipped from that perch after a loss in mid-January. They could return Monday when the new poll is released, after all four teams ahead of the Blue Devils - Kansas, Ohio State, Texas and Pitt - lost in the past week.
``I just think we're a good team, and we've just got to keep winning,' Krzyzewski said. ``Whatever happens in that, with seeding and all that, will just kind of work out. We just need to take care of our own business and getting better, but it's that time of the year when people are desperate.
``You're playing desperate people sometimes ... (and) teams that are ranked high, we all get great shots from everyone, and I do think that can make you better before going into the tournament. So I'm not surprised at all these games.'
Singler bounced back from his worst game of the season, a 2-point performance against Virginia. His jumper 10 seconds into the second half gave Duke its first double-digit lead, 39-28, and prolonged the run that followed Krzyzewski's technical foul.
``When that happened, it really gave our team energy,' said freshman guard Tyler Thornton, whose foul call precipitated the whistle on Krzyzewski. ``That's really when the game turned around and we started getting more defensive stops and started getting out on the break, so that really was the turning point for us.'
Duke outscored Georgia Tech 54-22 during the roughly 21 minutes that followed that ``T.' By the time Seth Curry hit a free throw to make it 67-40 with 9:12 left, the Blue Devils were well on their way to their NCAA-best 34th straight win at Cameron Indoor Stadium - where Georgia Tech has only won once since 1996.
Smith, the ACC leader in scoring and assists, was 10 of 20 with four 3-pointers while reaching the 20-point mark for the league-best 16th time this season. He helped Duke shoot 45 percent - 50 percent in the second half - and win a rematch of last year's conference championship game and claim a matchup of the ACC's best and worst shooting teams.
Iman Shumpert and Moe Miller had 13 points apiece, but they couldn't keep the Yellow Jackets (11-15, 3-9) from losing their sixth straight ACC game. Glen Rice Jr. finished with 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting while Shumpert was 4 of 16 for Georgia Tech.
``It just happened so fast. ... They got a couple of breakaways and the crowd got into it,' Miller said. ``Then we got a couple of silly fouls, and the next thing you know they were up 20. It's a good thing to keep fighting, but it's highly unlikely that you'll come back on a Duke team when you're down by 20.'
The Blue Devils, the league's most accurate team from 3-point range, hit 6 of 16 from beyond the arc. Georgia Tech, its worst team from that distance, was 3 of 15 - and two of those came in the opening 3 minutes.
Yet, for a 10-minute chunk of the first half, the Blue Devils looked plenty capable of joining the Jayhawks, Buckeyes, Longhorns and Panthers as upset victims by allowing Georgia Tech to repeatedly score in threes - from beyond the arc, and the old-fashioned way through contact.
``I didn't know when, but I knew they were going to make a run,' Shumpert said. ``They always do.'
This time it came after Coach K received his ``T.'
Krzyzewski became incensed at the refs when Thornton was whistled for holding Shumpert, and official Bryan Kersey slapped the Hall of Fame coach with his first technical foul of the season at the 10:16 mark.
``It happens,' Krzyzewski said. ``No sense in talking about it. It just happens. Obviously, when that happens, you're not going to agree with it, but it doesn't make a darned bit of difference, and you just go on to the next thing.'
After Shumpert hit four consecutive free throws to put Tech up 18-13, the Blue Devils outscored the Yellow Jackets 24-10 the rest of the half and took the lead for good on Smith's 3-pointer with 4:45 left that made it 26-24.
``We ended the half in a very beautiful manner,' Krzyzewski said.
The Associated Press News Service
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