Blue Devils Drop Two in a Row

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Is it time to hit the panic button?
Is it time to hit the panic button? /

Short answer, no. Long answer, there are concerns.

First, you have to hand all the praise to the Hurricanes, who beat Duke for the first time in 45 years. They looked the the Canes from earlier this season; they played a perfect zone for almost the entire game and they were aggressive, forcing turnovers and on offense, they just seemed to be having fun, especially on their second half, fifteen point run.

By halftime you could tell that Miami knew they could win this game and once they had the confidence, they just came out attacking in the second half, building that 20-point lead.

Let’s go ahead and look at the quick hits.

– Duke has faced off against two bubble teams that needed the win. These are challenging games for a league-leading team and Duke has failed that test two times in a row. I’m not about to question the team’s heart, but something just seems to be off. It’s fine to drop one of these game against a motivate home dog, but two in a row is not acceptable.

– In the two defeats, Duke has turned the ball over a total of 44 times. In both games, they turned the ball over a bunch early (eight in the first eight minutes against Miami). This is just not acceptable. Singler and Nelson, who have been the two stars the past two weeks, fumbled away 10 turnovers.

– Without Henderon, the season will end early for the Blue Devils. It is obvious that Gerald is hurting bad. He was only on the floor for 19 minutes, finishing 1-4 for the game (five points). He’s 11-39 in his last six games (28%). Since so little is known about this injury, we have no clue if and when he will recover.

– Don’t forget about Paulus’ problems. He was supposed to have finally figured it out and there’s no doubt he had a solid run for a little while, but outside the second Maryland game last week, he’s struggled. Take away that game and he’s only made three baskets in each of the other three games (BC, WF, UM) on 31 shots.

– I can’t say this anymore, because I’ve been saying this for four years now. There’s no doubt DeMarcus Nelson has been one of the best rebounding men under 6’5. It is astonishing some of the junk he pulls down under the basket. However, time and again, he too often tries to put back that rebound, but it just gets swapped away. It’s one thing to sneak in and grab the rebound among the trees, but it’s quite a different thing to pump fake twice and try to get the put back. I can’t count the number of times I have yelled at the TV, “Pass it back out! Pass it back else, Nelson!” Come on D, pass it back out!

– Lance Thomas Stat Watch (Our goal; more points and rebounds than personal fouls): Tonight, 10 points, three rebounds and five personal fouls. It’s a split.

– In the past, Duke could afford to give up the big numbers to an opponent’s big man, bit now it’s starting to hurt. However, in previous games the big men were their team’s stars. Against the Canes, Dwayne Collins, who averages less than ten points a game, knocked in 26 points on an astonishing 12-14 shooting. My question, where was the adjustment?
– In the past, Duke could afford to give up the big numbers to an opponent’s big man, bit now it’s starting to hurt. However, in previous games the big men were their team’s stars. Against the Canes, Dwayne Collins, who averages less than ten points a game, knocked in 26 points on an astonishing 12-14 shooting. My question, where was the adjustment? /

– One trend that is starting to bother me is the inconsistence from the bench players. It appears that when one player does well, another one falls off. Last game, Smith was solid and Scheyer disappeared. Against Miami, Smith was bad, while Scheyer had his best personal game.

– Let’s try to find some good news from this defeat. First, Duke didn’t give up. You never want to fall behind by 20 points in the second half, but they didn’t hang their heads. They battled back, hit their three’s and nearly pulled it out. You again have to hand it to Miami for nailing six of their last eight free throws though when it mattered.

– Now I do realize that I’m a spoiled Blue Devil fan. I’ve seen one losing season in the last twenty years, so I have little right to complain. However, does every team have to storm the court when they beat Duke? Actually think it was fine for Cane’s fans to do it. Hell, it’s been 45 years. Wake Forest though, they’ve beaten Duke plenty in the past. Okay, I’ll stop being a bitch now.

– At this point, many experts will start to point out how Duke always seems to falter here in the latter half of the season, and I’m sure they’ll have plenty of stats to compare to Duke’s past struggles (like here). The arguments are fair and hard to argue, but I’m going to hold off judgment for now. This team is not like Duke teams of the last six years. Those teams were simple 6-man rotations that always seemed to lose their legs after 25 or so games. By the time the tournament came around, they were spent. Now you could get away with that when you had NBA star type talent on your roster (like 1999 or 2001), but not with the type of players the Devils have had lately. This Duke team goes 9-10 deep though, so they’re not tired. Anyone who has watched the last two games knows, they’ve just played bad ball…especially in the first ten minutes of the games; turnovers have been huge and missed free throws have killed them. Yes, it takes talent to be a great team, but another factor in basketball is the intimidation factor. Good teams jump on average teams early, crushing their hopes of winning the game. However, when you throw balls away, miss free throws, get out hustled to loose balls, then that team starts to believe and as soon as they believe they got a shot, their in the game for the long haul.
– At this point, many experts will start to point out how Duke always seems to falter here in the latter half of the season, and I’m sure they’ll have plenty of stats to compare to Duke’s past struggles (like here). The arguments are fair and hard to argue, but I’m going to hold off judgment for now. This team is not like Duke teams of the last six years. Those teams were simple 6-man rotations that always seemed to lose their legs after 25 or so games. By the time the tournament came around, they were spent. Now you could get away with that when you had NBA star type talent on your roster (like 1999 or 2001), but not with the type of players the Devils have had lately. This Duke team goes 9-10 deep though, so they’re not tired. Anyone who has watched the last two games knows, they’ve just played bad ball…especially in the first ten minutes of the games; turnovers have been huge and missed free throws have killed them. Yes, it takes talent to be a great team, but another factor in basketball is the intimidation factor. Good teams jump on average teams early, crushing their hopes of winning the game. However, when you throw balls away, miss free throws, get out hustled to loose balls, then that team starts to believe and as soon as they believe they got a shot, their in the game for the long haul. /

– Where we go from here? Let’s assume Duke handles St. Johns in Cameron. Duke will stay in the top ten, but now find themselves tied with Carolina for first place in the ACC. This is important because first place in the ACC still means #1 seed in the East regional. However, Duke will need to defeat Carolina again in the season’s final game, plus they will either have to win the ACC tournament, or have Carolina lose somewhere.

However, Duke can’t overlook the rest of the schedule. The Blue Devils have three ACC games remaining prior to the Carolina and based on the last two results, those games are not gimmes. They still have Georgia Tech, NC State and Virginia. Granted, these three currently sit in the bottom half on the league (combined 10-23 in ACC play), but only the game against the Yellow Jackets is at Cameron. Things are about to get interesting.

STAT OF THE GAME: Blocks – 0

PROPS GO TO: John Scheyer. His 27 points nearly brought Duke back by himself. He also handed out five assists

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Dwayne Collins. Duke has no answer for Collins, who shot 12-14 for 26 points. He also played solid D in the middle of the Canes zone.