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Jim Sumner On Duke-St. John's

If it looks like a trap game, smells like a trap game and sounds like a trap game, then it probably is a trap game. If you go on the road to face a non-conference bubble team looking for a signature win, then you'd better bring your A game.

Duke didn't even come close Sunday against St. John's, falling 93-78 in a nationally-televised game dominated by the home team .

It was almost a perfect storm of things-we've-been-worrying-about. An inspired opponent, genuinely lousy 3-point shooting, spotty low-post offense, too many fouls, too many turnovers, too much matador defense. At times, almost painful to watch. .

Duke started out okay, scoring the first four points and trailing by only a point six minutes into the game. But things fell apart in a hurry. Trailing 11-10, the Blue Devils scored only two points in a span of over five minutes.

Usually when Duke has an unproductive spell on offense, the defense will keep them afloat. This didn't happen Sunday. St. John's converted inside and in transition, got to the foul line way too often, even knocked down a few 3s. With shocking suddenness the lead grew, hitting double digits at 28-17, then 35-19, then 46-25 before the half mercifully ended.

Duke scored enough points in the second half to fuel a comeback but didn't get it done on the defensive end. Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler were scoring until the final buzzer but it took Duke too long to start hitting from outside and that consistent third-scorer remains as elusive as ever. That late run that cut the lead to 11 was neat and hopefully something to build on. But the few times St. John's absolutely had to have a score, they scored.

Duke didn't lose because they "only" scored 78 points. Duke lost because St. John's carved up Duke's defense. The Red Storm hit 58 percent from the field and 79 percent from the line, tallied the most points ever scored by St. John's against Duke and they did it without much help from beyond the arc. Why bother with 20-footers when there's a buffet of lay-ups upon which to gorge? It looked like a pre-game lay-up drill on more than a few occasions. Not how Duke has developed its program.

Probably best to just flush this out of the system and move on. A lot of very, very good Duke teams have has January games like this and gone on to have productive post-seasons. After all, it was barely a year ago that Georgetown kicked sand in Duke's face and took their lunch money. With College Park looming in just a few days, the Duke coaches shouldn't have too much trouble getting their team's attention.


Duke now leads to series with St. John's 14-6.

Nolan Smith's game-high 32 points was one point shy of his career high established earlier this season against Alabama-Birmingham. Smith has scored 298 points in Duke's last dozen games, an average of 24.8 per game. His season average is just over 21 points per game.

Smith now has 1,589 points at Duke. At 21 points per game, Smith would need 20 more games to reach 2,000. Duke has a maximum of 19 remaining, assuming a maximum of nine post-season games. Then again, at 24.8, this becomes doable.

Kyle Singler's 20 points give him 2,144. Singler passed Mark Alarie today and is 11 points behind Danny Ferry for fifth place on the Duke career list. He's one point shy of the ACC's all-time top-20 list.

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