There's really not much you can say after a complete butt-kicking like the one Clemson laid on Duke down in Littlejohn.Â We usually look for the positives in a loss, but are there any?Â Duke was out-defended, out-hustled, and out-toughed.Â It might be the worst loss since the 43 point pounding at the hands of Virginia back in the Sampson era.
Duke broke down in almost every aspect of the game.Â They had 16 turnovers, mostly to Clemson's press, got pounded on the boards (28/13 to 38/16), only shot 30.8% from the floor, and were a weak 12-19 from the line.
But mostly they were just outplayed.Â Clemson showed enormous heart and passion and Duke, for whatever reason, couldn't match it.Â Didn't even come close.
To an extent, some of the problems revealed against the Tigers have been building. Duke's offense had become far too reliant on Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler, and against Clemson, like Virginia, Singler was a non-factor offensively. Duke's defense took them a long way, but it wasn't present Wednesday.Â If your offense is erratic and the defense doesn't show up, you know, you're pretty much screwed.
Henderson was effective for a good bit of the game but banged up his wrist and was not nearly as effective after that.
Singler was 2-8 and had five turnovers.Â Jon Scheyer was 1-8. Nolan Smith was 1-7 with four turnovers of his own and was really not a factor in this game at all.
Aside from not handling the press, Duke had huge problems with Trevor Booker, who played inside as if he wasn't really guarded, which is unfortunately more or less true.
As fans, all of us have the luxury of forgetting this game.Â Coach K, though, made his philosophy on such things crystal clear in that 43-point drubbing by Virginia: after the game, Johnny Moore said, "here's to forgetting tonight," or similar words. Coach K immediately said, "here's to never forgetting tonight."
In the Duke way, this will not be set aside. Aside from the usual motivational techniques, which in the past have included benchings, stripping the locker room, and starting walk-ons, not to mention brutally hard practices (Grant Hill's nose was broken in a practice after a lousy game).Â It will be broken down and analyzed, frame by frame, with brutal honesty.Â Everything is going to be laid bare between now and Saturday.
Really, the most important thing is how Duke reacts. If they react as Maryland often has reacted to bad losses under Gary Williams - that is to say with emotional fragility - things will get worse.
If they react as they usually have under Coach K, with emotional defiance, then it can be a useful loss.
One bright note:Â Lance Thomas had a reasonably effective offensive game, shooting 3-3 and 4-4 from the line. He had one very nice move early.Â And while the situation certainly wasn't what any Duke fan would want, it was nice to see him taking some responsibility on the bench, pushing and cajoling his teammates.
There's a lot that most of us never see about a team, and internal dynamics are a big part of it.Â After this loss, people are going to have to step up and take ownership.Â If Thomas is going to do that, it is a good, though perhaps modest, silver lining.