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January 11, 2011
Smith scored just two points in the first game that Irving missed with an injured right big toe, but he has averaged 24.8 points in the six games since to help Duke remain unbeaten. Smith, a senior, scored a career-high 33 points Wednesday in an 85-64 rout of UAB and provided 18 points Sunday in a 71-64 victory over Maryland.
That recent surge has helped make Smith the new No. 1 shooting guard in the Rivals.com College Basketball Power Rankings, which measure the nation's top performers at each position.
"Nolan is probably playing as well as anyone in the country right now," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters after the UAB game.
Smith added seven rebounds and five assists to go along with his 33 points against UAB, which marked the fifth consecutive game in which he had scored at least 20 points. That streak ended Sunday against Maryland when Smith shot 5-of-18, but he still came relatively close to recording a triple-double. Duke rallied from a six-point, second-half deficit in part because of Smith's 18 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
"We knew we were fine," Smith said after the game. "We just knew we were in a fight, and we knew that at halftime. Our goal was not to come out and start like that, but they were obviously ready.
"They had tons of confidence, and they came out and hit us right away. So we were like, 'All right, this is a ballgame. Let's just relax and play our game.' "
Smith took over the No. 1 spot in the shooting guard rankings from Purdue's E'Twaun Moore, who shot a combined 7-of-25 in victories over Penn State and Iowa. Smith will find some familiar faces at the top of the power rankings. Duke's Kyle Singler is our No. 1 small forward, while Krzyzewski paces the coach rankings.
The shift at shooting guard represents the only change at the top of the rankings. Connecticut point guard Kemba Walker, Arizona power forward Derrick Williams, Ohio State center Jared Sullinger, Singler and Krzyzewski remain atop their respective positions. Sullinger also continues to lead the freshman rankings.
This week's power rankings take into account all results through Sunday's games. The rankings put a special emphasis on recent performances while also taking career achievements into consideration.