ECU vs Duke: What Went Wrong for the Blue Devils


Nov 19, 2013; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski talks to forward Rodney Hood (5) on the sidelines against the East Carolina Pirates at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Duke nearly stumbled at home against an ECU team that had to rally from 15 points down just to get by Norfolk State the night before. What the heck went wrong? Let’s take a look.


I think we’re beginning to reach a point where this can just be assumed on a game-to-game basis, but Duke’s rebounding was miserable tonight. Following a surprising effort last night that saw the Blue Devils control the boards against UNC Asheville, I was hoping–no, praying– for more of the same, but the pesky Pirates thrived all night.

Outside of Jabari Parker (9), not a single Duke player managed more than five rebounds and the contest ended with ECU holding the advantage, 37-34 (this was, honestly, a lot closer than it looked). It was incredibly worrisome, considering that Duke had a fairly decent size advantage all throughout the game; not a single Pirate that received 20+ minutes of playing time stood taller than 6’7″.

For the record, Amile Jefferson performed admirably–pulling in 5 rebounds–but he only received 12 minutes of playing time in Krzyzewski’s effort to match ECU’s four-guard lineup.

The lack of instincts, ability, and willingness to rebound scares the hell out of me moving forward. Before, it was teams that maintained the ability to dominate on the glass that worried me, but this game showed that anyone can out-rebound the Blue Devils, really. Just 24 hours before this, the same exact ECU squad was getting throttled on the boards by Norfolk State.

I couldn’t care less if this team was tired after playing two days in a row. Outside of the UNC Asheville game, they’ve been pretty bad on the boards, and we have every reason to be worried.

ECU’s Zone

Nov 19, 2013; Durham, NC, USA; East Carolina Pirates forward Brandan Stith (25) and Duke Blue Devils guard Rasheed Sulaimon (14) scramble for the ball at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t as big of a deal as rebounding, because Duke really didn’t have an ideal amount of time to prepare for a zone defense, but it was still rough watching them go about their offense. While they were effective when the Pirates went man-to-man, the zone presented a vast amount of problems for the Blue Devils, who became uncreative, static, and ineffective.

The biggest concern was their inability and unwillingness to create touches in the high post, where the 2-3 is most vulnerable.

Like I said, though, this was likely a result of the poor preparation that stems from playing on back-to-back nights. Still, you have to wonder how excited Syracuse is to play the Blue Devils.

The lack of a reliable third option

We’re five games into the season and I still have no freaking clue who Duke’s third-best option is on offense. Quinn Cook appears to be the most obvious of choices, but he has been the very definition of ‘erratic’ this season and his 5-15 (2-7 3pt) effort today was, in my opinion, his worst performance through five games.

Rasheed Sulaimon has shown flashes, but he isn’t at that point where he can be a consistently reliable guy, yet. Andre Dawkins never got a chance to leave his mark on the game, as he was also a victim of Krzyzewski’s rotation, or lack thereof, in the second half. Jefferson has shown drastic improvement on the offensive end, but he has only played 20+ minutes once so far.

Tonight, Duke’s two stars were enough, but if ECU had anyone that matched up just the slightest bit well with either Parker or Hood, I’m not so sure the Blue Devils pull this one out. A third option also would’ve helped spread things out a little more and opened it up for the rest of the team. Aside from Parker and Hood, no one in particular demanded the respect/attention of the defense.

It is time for someone to take over as a reliable third option on a more permanent basis, rather than simply hoping one of them steps up on a game-to-game basis. Who is going to do it?

Bueller? Bueller?

The “Rotation”

After running with a deep rotation the first four games, Krzyzewski flipped the tables tonight. Thornton (26 minutes) was the only bench player to see more than eleven minutes of action and–as previously mentioned–this was virtually entirely in place of Amile Jefferson, who only played twelve minutes.

The result was a very tired and very poor Duke team down the stretch. As much as you never want to question the coaching wisdom of Krzyzewski, I would’ve liked to have seen a little more variety, especially considering the performance put forth by most of the guys on the court. The perimeter defense and pressure was one of the strong points, however, and perhaps K didn’t want to shake that.

I would like to see a more consistent rotation, but given how diverse Duke’s bench is, I think I’d understand if it varies from game to game.

Got anything to add? Anything you disagree with? Sound off in the comment section below!