Ugh, well that was frustrating.
The Duke Blue Devils lost for the third time this season, falling to the Virginia Tech Hokies, 64-60. This one was a tough pill to swallow (as most of them are), simply because this was a game they should have won. Am I wrong? This was a game Duke should have won. I didn’t say that after they lost to Florida State and St. John’s.
At the seven-minute mark, Duke had a six-point lead and the ball. Then everything that could wrong did go wrong. Virginia Tech would outscore the Blue Devils 17-7 the rest of the way and just like that, we’re all left scratching our heads.
So what happened? What went wrong? Let’s count the ways.
1. NO LONG BALL
I’ve said it, you’ve said it, he’s said it…if Duke isn’t hitting their outside shots, they lose. Tonight, they were 4-20 (20-percent). Nolan Smith was shutout from long-range (going 0-3).
There was one brutal two-minute stretch in the second half when Duke had the lead, up trying to put the dagger in a Hokie’s heart. Kyle Singler had three straight open looks and he missed all three. The last two misses would have given Duke a nine-point lead. I’m not saying Duke would have won if any of those went in, but you know it would have been a dagger if one of them did.
2. HALF THE TEAM DOESN’T SHOW UP
I saw some pretty bad play tonight from a few Blue Devils. Let’s start up top.
Seth Curry had his worst game as a Blue Devil. Playing at Virginia Tech, the school his father (sitting in the stands) played for, Curry quickly got into foul trouble and never looked like a player who could produce. At the end of the game, I was actually hoping coach would call a play going to him. Think about it, what a way to end a bad game, by knocking down the game-winning three.
We’ll never know if the final play was meant for him, since Duke was playing hot potato with the ball. Instead of a game-winning shot, it sadly was fitting that Curry fumbled the ball away to end the game. Of course is it me or does it seem that Curry never plays well in front of his dad?
Ryan Kelly needs to learn when NOT to shoot it. He’s done some good things over the last couple months, but man when he’s cold, I can feel the frost bite on my nipples here in New York. Seriously, unless your first name is J.J. and your last name is Redick, stop shooting threes if you can’t hit them.
Kelly’s been productive because he’s become an inside guy. Tonight, he played outside and that hasn’t really worked at all on the road. He’s made only one-three point shot on the road since January 22. That’s a long time.
Miles Plumlee was simply abused tonight. Take away that one spectacular block in the second half and he was Virginia Tech’s bitch tonight. He went 0-3 from the floor, missing not one, but two dunks. Yeah, the first one was a bit tough, but to miss a put-back dunk, there is no excuse. He’s a junior, it’s time to become a player.
Worse yet, his offensive woes were the least of his problems. Miles was owned on the glass. He finished with two rebounds tonight, but that doesn’t even come close to telling the story. I wish there was a stat for how many times his guy got the rebound. While it wasn’t all his fault, Virginia Tech won this game because they beat Duke 14-9 in offensive rebounding.
2. TURNOVERS TURN GOOD TEAMS INTO BAD TEAMS
For a long time, it was the stat of the game. Duke went a full 28 minutes without a turnover. That’s stunning. Mason had one at the 11:55 mark in the second half, but then Duke fell about. They turned it over on four of their last 12 possessions. Virginia Tech made Duke pay. They went 3-3 from the floor after a turnover, scoring eight points (the final turnover of course ended the game).
3. UGLY 26
Thanks to Virginia Tech’s awful free-throw shooting, Duke was able to hang in there in the end. Down two with 26 seconds to play, senior Nolan Smith stepped up to the line and missed the front end of the one-and-one. Luckily Mason grabbed the rebound and was able to deliver one free throw (Mason can, but Nolan can’t?). That was a huge miss.
Of course, Duke still had a shot with 22 left. They had the ball, down three, four guys on the floor who could hit a three. Nolan Smith, who played great all game, got into a dribbling contest with himself (and lost). It took a Coach K timeout to save them from the turnover.
Even out of that timeout, the best shot we could get was a Kyle Singler running three (away from the basket)?
Even after that, we got the ball back (thank you Mason), but again Duke didn’t look like they could do anything. The fact is, as good as Nolan is, he’s not capable of dribbling out of a double-team. Kyrie Irving can, but he’s not playing.
4. KYLE COLD AGAIN?
After Temple I wasn’t able to do any writing (my kid was sick), but what I wanted to write was even though Kyle Singler had a 28-point outing, I wasn’t ready to declare him out of his shooting slump. Yes, he scored 28 points, which means he broke out of his scoring slump, but not his shooting slump.
Against Temple, Singler did all his damage inside the paint, using a combination of dribble-drive and muscling under the boards.
Tonight, Singler led the team in scoring with 22, but again he did most of his damage inside. His points came from doing the dirty work in the paint (getting to the free throw line). He finished only 6-19 from the floor (hitting one jumper and one three-point shot).
HAND IT TO THE HOKIES
Who needs a bench when all five of your starters can produce double-figure points inside?On a night when Malcolm Delaney wasn’t producing (at least to his level), everyone else came to play.
The hero of the game had to be Jeff Allen. He took a lot of shots (18), but he finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds. He had five offensive rebounds, which made all the difference in the world. Incredible, he hit two three-point shots. Prior to this game, he made three all season long.
This was a big loss. Obviously the Blue Devils will fall out of number one, but more importantly, this will probably guarantee that Duke doesn’t earn a number one seed. Think about, their resume was already thin compared to Kansas, Pittsburgh and Ohio State (Duke has only one win against a top-25 team). With Texas losing and BYU beating San Diego State, I would say the four #1 seeds will be:
EAST: Pittsburgh. SOUTH: Kansas. MIDWEST: Ohio State. WEST: BYU.
Duke will need some help if they want to crawl back into the top four.
However, that may not even be Duke’s biggest problem. They potentially could now lose the ACC crown out-right. North Carolina has to win at home against Maryland Sunday and then beat a Florida State team without Chris Singleton on the road, but if the Tar Heels can win those two, that means next weekend’s contest in Chapel Hill will decide the fate of the ACC. My gut says the North Carolina students will actually show up for that game.
Sure the Blue Devils have already beaten North Carolina, but this team does not perform as well on the road (I’m talking to you Ryan, Seth and Miles). I would even argue that Carolina is the favorite in that game.