Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski helps up Nolan Smith after he went down with an injury during the second half. ETHAN HYMAN - firstname.lastname@example.org
GREENSBORO – On a night when one big question was answered for the Duke Blue Devils, another potentially bigger one was raised.
The Kyle Singler question? He’s fine. Singler eased plenty of minds when he opened the Maryland quarterfinal tournament game by hitting a couple of quick jump shots that seemed to sweep away the residue of some off-kilter performances recently.
He wound up with 29 points and looked like Kyle Singler is supposed to look in Duke’s deceptively lopsided 87-71 victory.
But what about Nolan Smith?
And what about his left foot?
The ACC player of the year went down with 6:48 remaining in what was then a tight game and stayed down for a time. Mike Krzyzewki hovered over Smith while doctors checked him out.
Smith eventually walked off the court with help, left the bench without help and finally returned walking with only the hint of a limp. But Smith stayed seated and his status for Saturday’s semifinals wasn’t immediately known.
When Tyler Thornton scored on a driving layup and drew a foul, the Duke bench erupted. Smith was the last Blue Devil to get up, rising slowly.
Until the injury, Smith hadn’t been himself against the Terps. Some of it had to do with the grinding defense Cliff Tucker attached to him but Smith was lacking his typical explosive grace. He didn’t score his first field goal until less than 13 minutes remained in the game.
Duke can’t survive that this month but that’s not likely to happen again because Smith is too good to let it happen again – if he’s healthy.
Beyond Singler’s return to form, Seth Curry was brilliant when the Blue Devils needed it. He scored nine straight points for Duke when it turned a five-point game into a 14-point game.
The Terps got physical with the Blue Devils and they were effective at getting into the lane against Duke’s defense. That’s how Maryland needs to play given its limited outside shooting. But it didn’t last.
Duke had all it needed Friday night. But the question is will it have Smith on Saturday.