Boston College's Craig Smith and Duke's Shelden Williams, both preseason All-Americans and All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team selections, greatly anticipated last night's matchup as ACC opponents since they were teammates on the United States squad that brought home gold from the World University Games in Turkey last August.
Smith and Williams developed a fast friendship off the court as roommates during their summer sojourn but were fierce competitors on the court, each sparing the other no quarter during their rugged practice sessions.
''Shelden loved his experience [in Turkey] with Jay Wright, the Villanova coach, and he thinks a lot of Craig Smith," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who, as head coach of the US Olympic squad, could possibly take Smith and Williams to Beijing in 2008. ''He just feels that Craig is one of the best players in the country. He really liked him a lot. He really liked having another guy with muscle in there to play and both of those kids really represented our country well."
Last night, however, Smith and Williams set aside their friendship to face off against each other, and the No. 2 Blue Devils came away 83-81 winners.
Did they ever talk about their inevitable ACC matchup when they were in Turkey?
''The other guys [on the US team] did, they tried to hype the game up," said Smith, who finished with 8 points and 8 rebounds before fouling out. ''They were like, 'Don't you guys get to play each other?' It was nothing but laughs."
Williams scored 21 points to help Duke remain unbeaten in conference play and end BC's five-game winning streak.
The Eagles had also won four straight conference games after opening their season 0-3 in the ACC.
Pagliuca looks aheadWeston native Joe Pagliuca, son of Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca, returned to Conte Forum as a junior walk-on for Duke. The Blue Devils' road trip proved a triumphant homecoming of sorts for Pagliuca, who had been shelved the last six weeks after undergoing surgery Dec. 19 in Boston to repair two herniated disks in his lower back.
''I just had pain down my left leg all the time and it was hard to walk," Pagliuca said. ''What they did was take out those pieces that were pushing against the nerve and kind of made my disks look normal again. Right away, I didn't have that pain down my leg."
Although it is unlikely he'll be able to play this season, Pagliuca won a small victory when he suited up for last night's game and participated in Duke's pregame warmups on the same Conte Forum court where he used to watch boyhood BC idols Bill Curley and Howard Eisley.
''If I can play, I definitely will try to, but I don't think I'm going to push myself to get back because I don't want to be in the situation that I was in before," Pagliuca said. ''So if I don't play this season then that's fine and I'll just work over the summer to strengthen up and be ready for next year."
And, according to Krzyzewski, there will be a spot waiting for Pagliuca on Duke's roster.