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Small world for opponents

Duo teamed up for US in Turkey

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 ahead

Weston 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.

Hoping to pull rank

The Eagles failed in their attempt to win their first game this season over a ranked opponent. Previously, BC dropped back-to-back games against No. 14 Michigan State (77-70) Dec. 6 and at No. 21 Maryland (73-71) Dec. 11, and lost a third to No. 18 North Carolina State (78-60) at home Jan. 10 . . . Three-fifths of the AP's preseason All-America team were assembled last night with Duke's J.J. Redick and Williams joining BC's Smith. The other AP preseason All-Americans: Illinois's Dee Brown and Gonzaga's Adam Morrison . . . You knew it was a big game because Dick Vitale, ESPN's colorful college basketball analyst, was back at Conte Forum to call the action. Vitale, 66, said it was the first time he'd been to Conte since 2001, when BC last hosted Duke and absorbed an 88-78 loss . . . Best sign in BC's student section was the one with a picture of Darth Vader that read, ''Duke, I Am Your Father." . . . Faces in the crowd: Larry Lucchino, Bill Belichick, Bob Kraft, Doug Flutie, Brad Faxon, Tim Russert, and Troy Bell, BC's all-time scoring leader . . . about 500 students queued up at the student entrance of Conte Forum five hours before the tip to gain general admission into the building. Two BC juniors, Donnie Meurer of Milwaukee and Justin Nunez of Greensboro, N.C., camped out for 40 hours in front of Conte Forum to earn the right to be the first fans allowed into the building when it opened to students at 6:30. ''We've been getting a lot of crap from other ACC opponents that we're the worst fans in the ACC," Meurer said. ''It's time to erase that idea."

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