ACC Tournament 2011: No Nolan Smith Is a Toe-tal Bummer for Duke in Semifinals
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The Duke athletic department might want to look into a new shoe contract.
With star freshman Kyrie Irving looking on from the bench in street clothes, Nolan Smith went to the floor with 6:49 left in the second half against Maryland with what could be the second major toe injury this season for the Blue Devils.
After the game, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Smith—the player of the year in the ACC and a National Player of the Year candidate—injured the second toe on his left foot and is questionable for Saturday's game against No. 6 seed Virginia Tech.
"I'm not sure of Nolan's status for tomorrow," Krzyzewski said after Friday night's game. "We won't know that probably until tomorrow morning. But he wasn't able to come back into the ballgame, so we're concerned about that."
Duke won the game 87-71, but Smith wasn't able to walk up the stairs to the team locker room on his own after the game, according to reports from ESPN.
The Blue Devils have been playing at less than full strength since Dec. 4 when Irving went down with a strange toe injury against Butler, and he hasn't been back out on the court for official game action since.
The freshman point guard did make an appearance during Duke's warmup session Friday night, but was not in game uniform. He did light conditioning drills with Duke trainers, but dressed in street clothes for the game. He's not expected to be back for the ACC Tournament.
If Smith indeed misses multiple games, Duke would lose one of its most prolific scorers since J.J. Redick. Smith has averaged 21.6 points per game this season, the best in the ACC.
Irving was averaging 17.4 points and 5.1 assists per game before his injury, including a remarkable 31-point performance against Michigan State on Dec. 1 in Durham.
If there's any silver lining for Duke in this scenario, it's that the Blue Devils played arguably their best basketball in the last few weeks, despite Smith having his worst game of the season.
Duke held a five-point lead when Smith went to the floor, then rattled off seven straight points to put the game out of reach for the Terrapins. Before his injury, Smith had put up only seven points on 2-for-11 shooting.
Duke had one of its most balanced scoring attacks of the season, with five players scoring in double-figures. Kyle Singler also broke out of his shooting slump in Friday night's game, scoring 29 points on 10-for-15 shooting. Singler also went 9-for-9 from the foul line.
Duke plays Virginia Tech in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.
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