Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski should take blame for loss

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) /

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski should shoulder the blame for the loss to Louisville. 

When Duke basketball players struggle in a game, we criticize them.

It’s not an attack on their character or how they are as a person. It just comes with the territory of playing for one of the most storied programs in college basketball.

When those players play well, we praise them.

In Duke’s loss to Louisville, Matthew Hurt was sensational, but the trio of Jordan Goldwire, DJ Steward, and Jeremy Roach did not play well.

There’s no rhyme or reason to the argument. If you watched the game, you know those things are true.

But just as we criticize or praise players for their performances, the same has to go for head coach Mike Krzyzewski, and the Hall of Famer did not have his best game pulling the strings for the Blue Devils on Saturday night.

One of the biggest questions in the 80-73 overtime loss was the absence of Mark Williams in the final minutes of the second half, specifically on the last possession.

Louisville had dominated Duke on the backboards, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds in its victory, but the 7-foot-1 freshman was off the floor with the Blue Devils leading 65-64 after two free throws from Wendell Moore with less than 30 seconds to play.

Krzyzewski could have put Willams into the game after the first or second free throw attempt.

He didn’t.

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Carlik Jones, the best player on the floor for Louisville, was able to get into the lane and draw a foul against Moore, who was trying to block his floater.

Jones collided with the airborne Moore and went to the free throw line.

You know who could’ve blocked Jones’ floater without even jumping? Mark Williams.

Carlik Jones made the first free throw to tie the game, and Krzyzewski still didn’t put Williams in to potentially help secure a missed attempt. Right on cue, the guard missed the second free throw, and Louisville was able to poke the ball away from Hurt and luckily Jones missed the shot at the buzzer.

Mike Krzyzewski said after the game that even if Williams was in the game he wouldn’t have been lined up on the side that the ball rolled off the rim to, deeming the question meaningless.

Clearly, no one can speak to how Duke lines up defensively on free throws and the strategy the team has behind that, but the ball was deflected right across the lane, and Wendell Moore was on the other block.

Wouldn’t a player with over a 7-foot wingspan have the ability to reel in the loose ball and try to start a fast-break with under 10 seconds to play?

It seems like having Mark Williams on the floor at that moment, or prior to that sequence, could have only helped the Blue Devils, but hindsight is 20/20.

Williams started overtime but was only on the floor for 1:54 of the extra session as the ‘Cards made seven trips to the free throw line and shot 3-of-4 from two-point range, another aspect of the game in which the freshman center could have provided some help.

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Throughout the season, it has become widely known that Matthew Hurt is more effective as a power forward than center.

Hurt cannot match the foot speed or physicality of other centers in the ACC, and having Mark Willams off the floor forced Hurt to play center, wearing him out and making him not as effective on offense in his 37-point outburst.

Also, there’s no excuse for Hurt to only have two shot attempts, one missed and the other resulting in free throws, in the final four minutes of the second half and just two attempts, both made, in overtime.

Again, he had 37 points.

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Unless Louisville was quadruple-teaming him, you have to find a way to get him the ball, and Duke didn’t do that.

The Blue Devils were outscored by seven points with Mark Williams off the floor and played Louisville even with him on the floor.

Those seven points made difference, didn’t they?

Everyone has a bad game, and it’s perfectly fine to criticize it.

Unfortunately for Duke and Mike Krzyzewski, the Hall of Famer had a bad game in one of the most important outings of the season.

Duke now is in another tough scenario needing victories as it has a two-game road trip looming against Georgia Tech and North Carolina to close the regular season.

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