GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Duke won another postseason tournament game. The Blue Devils hope they haven’t lost another star guard.
Kyle Singler scored 29 points, and after Nolan Smith went down with a toe injury, No. 5 Duke pulled away to beat Maryland 87-71 on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Mason Plumlee added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the second-seeded Blue Devils (28-4), but Smith — the league player of the year — injured the second toe on his left foot with under 7 minutes left.
The reigning national champions and two-time defending ACC tournament winners held Maryland without a field goal for 6 minutes down the stretch to reach the conference semifinals for the fourth straight year.
Duke, which hasn’t lost in the league’s postseason event since the 2008 semifinals, is trying to win its 10th league tournament title in 13 years and ACC-record 19th overall.
Krzyzewski called Smith questionable for the Blue Devils’ semifinal matchup Saturday against sixth-seeded Virginia Tech, and expressed hope that the playmaking guard will be back on the floor by the start of the NCAA tournament.
“We’re going to try to make a long run, with or without him,” Krzyzewski said. “If he can’t play (Saturday) — and I’m not saying he won’t play, because I’ll find out later — but if he can’t, or we’re risking something and we have to keep him out, we’ll probably have until Friday if we go to Charlotte to get him with the right type of shoe and stuff like that.
“To make a run in the NCAA, you need your players,” Krzyzewski continued. “There’s no question. Nolan has been a player of the year in our conference, so it’s not just losing a player. It’s losing an outstanding player, if we don’t have him.”
Smith, the 14th Duke player to win the conference’s top award, was hurt with 6:48 left when he planted in the lane and fell to the court. He did not return, and Krzyzewski said the guard would have X-rays.
“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” teammate Ryan Kelly said. “Nolan’s a warrior and he’ll be ready to go.”
Still, the injury couldn’t help but evoke memories of the injured toe that has kept freshman point guard Kyrie Irving out for the past three months. Coincidentally, Irving was seen jogging, shuffling and shooting around about 90 minutes before tipoff in uniform shorts and sneakers. He was dressed in street clothes and topsiders for the game.
“He’s not going to magically appear tomorrow or anything like that because he hasn’t done anything with the team,” Krzyzewski said. “But it’s coming along great.”
Smith was having a rough night before he was injured. He missed his first seven shots and finished with seven points on 2-of-11 shooting with five turnovers and only two assists.
“Nolan wasn’t having his normal outstanding game, and then he gets hurt,” Krzyzewski said. “I thought after he got hurt, for the last eight minutes of the game, our guys were incredibly tough.”
Jordan Williams had 16 points and 16 rebounds to lead the seventh-seeded Terrapins (19-14), who kept things tight for much of the second half and pulled to 63-60 on Dino Gregory’s layup with 10:15 remaining.
Singler hit a driving layup with just under 9 minutes left to start the decisive surge. Duke reeled off nine straight points, and outscored Maryland 11-1 over a 4½-minute span as part of the 24-9 run it rode to an 18-point lead in the final minute.
“We played pretty well for 35 or 36 minutes tonight,” Gregory said. “In order to beat a team like Duke, the No. 5-ranked team in the country, you’ve got to play 40 minutes strong. We weren’t able to do that tonight.”
Singler picked up the slack for his fellow senior, hitting 10 of 15 shots to finish one point shy of his career high. Seth Curry, who helped shoulder the burden at point guard following Smith’s injury, converted a momentum-building three-point play during the run.
“I was just concerned for Nolan. I didn’t feel any pressure, and I wasn’t worried,” Singler said. “I just hoped that he didn’t get seriously hurt. I have full confidence and the team has full confidence in the guys on the team. So when (guard Andre Dawkins) came in and Seth was at the point, I felt comfortable and the team felt comfortable.”
Curry and Kelly both finished with 11 points while Miles Plumlee had 10. Kelly, who earlier in the season made 18 consecutive shots over a four-game span, had a near-perfect shooting night — hitting all five of his attempts from the field but missing his only try from the free-throw line.
“I got a couple of open looks and just knocked them down,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s 3 with 3½ minutes left broke a 31-all tie and started Duke’s 11-2 run that closed the half. Singler’s drive down the lane with 4 seconds to go gave the Blue Devils a 42-33 lead at the break. But until midway through the second half, the Terrapins never let them pull too far ahead and Maryland scored on 14 of its first 16 possessions of the half to keep things tight.
“I thought we were in pretty good shape with about 10 minutes left, and to see it go away hurts,” Terps coach Gary Williams said. “But at the same time, we did a very good job in a tough situation getting ready to play this game.”
Cliff Tucker scored 12 points, and Gregory and Pe’Shon Howard each scored 10 for Maryland.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)