The ACC contingent sputtered on the court, where it matters most, losing six of the first eight games in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Talk about squeaking through – the sole ACC wins, by Syracuse and Wake, both came in overtime.
That all but assured the league would fail yet again to lead the series for a sobering 10th time in the past 12 years.
For a while it appeared Duke, the most successful participant in Challenge competition, would secure its 20th victory in 23 starts in the annual set of faceoffs with the Big Ten.
Following a win over top-ranked Gonzaga, a triumph at Ohio State would announce Mike Krzyzewski’s final squad was fully back from a 2021 season that was its worst in more than a quarter century.
But, after building a 15-point margin early in the second half, Duke fizzled while OSU sizzled, the advantage shifting decisively in the game’s final minute.
That left it to the ACC’s surprising power in the Challenge, Wake Forest, to secure a victory over Chris Collins’ Northwestern team at Joel Coliseum. The Demon Deacons improved to 13-6 in the series, second-best only to Duke.
In its preceding contest, Wake had fallen to LSU on a neutral court. That result ended the Demon Deacons’ season-opening win streak at six games, its best start since 2008-09 under Dino Gaudio and one fewer victory than Duke managed this fall.
The OSU loss ended Duke’s season-opening win streak at seven, conquests of Kentucky and Gonzaga interspersed with an unusually undaunting slate of home outings.
The Blue Devils’ 2021-22 run echoed a 2012 streak that ended when second-ranked Ohio State crushed No. 3 Duke at Columbus, Ohio. Those Devils finished 27-7 and were shocked in their NCAA opener by Lehigh.
This year’s seven-win opening run marked the 41th time in Kryzewski’s 42 seasons his club started with at least one victory. Duke began a year with more wins 19 times, most recently in 2018.
Meanwhile, over in the publicity shadows Kara Lawson’s second Duke squad faces Iowa on Thursday night at Cameron in the women’s version of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Lawson’s team opened with a half-dozen wins, a streak surpassed just 11 times to inaugurate a Duke women’s season.
Six wins in a row already was best since the 2014 squad won 10 straight to open the season under Joanne P. McCallie.
Best by any Duke team, female or male, was the start by the 2007 women’s squad directed by Gail Goestenkors, which won its first 30 games. Led in scoring by Abby Waner and Lindsay Harding, the ’07 women finally lost to Kay Yow’s NC State Wolfpack in the ACC Tournament.
Three games later the Devils were eliminated 53-52 by Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer’s Rutgers squad in the NCAA Sweet 16 at Greensboro.
|FAST OUT OF THE GATE
Most Consecutive Wins By Duke Teams To Open Season
(Season Ends In Year Indicated, Asterisk Marks Current Team)
|W To Open||Men's Seasons||Women's Seasons|
|0||2000 (0-2), 1982||2019, 2004, 1999, 1991, 1990|
|1||2021, 2014, 1987||2020, 2010, 2000, 1996, 1995, 1987|
|2||2017, 2016,1995,1991,1983,1981||2018, 2016, 2009, 2005, 2002, 1984|
|3||2004, 1997, 1990||2021|
|4||2007, 1996||2017, 2012, 1998|
|5||2019, 1999||2015, 2008, 1997, 1992, 1986, 1985|
|6||2020, 2010, 1988||2022*|
|7||2022*, 2012||1994, 1993|
|10||2008, 2001, 1994, 1993||2014|
|12||2003, 2002, 1985||1988|
|15||2013, 2011, 2005||None|
|20||None||2011, 2006, 2003|