Nolan Smith Leads Duke in ACC Opener

by David Cassilo / @dcassilo

Life without Kyrie Irving has proved to be anything but challenging so far for Duke, and in its ACC opener against Miami little changed for the Blue Devils.

After outscoring the Hurricanes by 13 points in the first half, Duke cruised to an 11-point victory for its 23rd straight victory. The team was once again paced by Nolan Smith, who has risen his game in Irving’s absence. Smith, who scored a season-high 28 points, topped the 20-point mark for the fourth straight game after doing it just twice in the season’s first nine games.

Smith, along with fellow senior Kyle Singler, played a full 40 minutes and has provided the veteran leadership the team has needed.

From The Winston-Salem Journal:

Smith emerged as a one-man wrecking crew late in the first half, scoring 13 consecutive Duke points and extending a two-point lead to 13 at halftime. He totaled a season-high 28 points, with five rebounds, five assists and only two turnovers.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski delivered a rave review: “Nolan was spectacular. … Nolan was an old, really good ACC guard tonight.”

Smith hit nine of 15 shots, four of seven 3-point shots and all six free throws. He also hounded guard Durand Scott, who managed just 10 points for Miami (11-4, 0-1 ACC).

With Irving and Singler making all the headlines early on, Smith flew under the radar. However, he is now emerging as a sleeper Player of the Year candidate in both the conference and the country and has Duke poised for another title run.