After losing to Notre Dame at Notre Dame, Duke ran off a streak of 12 games, before meeting Notre Dame in Greensboro and losing to the Irish again on Friday.
While like everyone else, we were blown away by Duke's performance against NC State, but were also concerned. We've said this before about other teams in similar situations: you're not going to have two incredible games in a row, and so it was for Duke.
But it was more than that.
Duke was just...off, and Notre Dame was on.
And for most of the game, that was the story: Notre Dame was great, and Duke was not able to gut it out.
Then it changed in the second half.
Duke found its heart and roared back into the game.
Little by little, Duke found its way back into contention. Actually it was really compelling for a while because the lead fell slowly: 12. 11. 10. 8.
Every time Notre Dame pushed it back out, Duke cut deeper.
Finally, with just 3:13 left, a Tyus Jones three pointer cut the lead to four at 68-64 and it seemed like Duke would be able to pull off an impressive comeback. Notre Dame helped too, with a foul, two turnovers and another foul between the 2:44 and 1:48 marks.
Duke couldn't capitalize on the turnovers, and Jahlil Okafor, who had a brilliant game otherwise, missed a pair of free throws.
Suddenly, instead of scoring six or eight points, depending on threes, and being up, Duke saw Pat Connaughton hit a basket to push the lead back to six.
Quinn Cook then turned it over, then he missed a three, then Tyus Jones missed a pair of them.
Meanwhile, the Irish hit four three throws and pushed the lead to the final margin of 10.
After the game, Coach K said that Duke basically didn't compete until 16:00 was left and then turned it on.
While that's better than rolling over, he was clearly angered by the early performance.
Duke finished the game with 12 turnovers, which seems charitable, including four by Tyus Jones, who is usually so steady with the ball.
On one occasion, the ball came to him in front of the bench and just slipped through his hands.
As we said, it was unlikely that any team could play as brilliantly as Duke played against State Thursday. That was, quite simply, and amazing performance.
You just don't get those very often.
What Duke could have done, though, and clearly didn't, was to play as hard against Notre Dame as the Blue Devils did against NC State.
Coach K said that now, with tournament time here, the time for learning is just about over.
We'll see what Duke draws from the loss and which opponent it is assigned on Sunday and the path that it must it take.
This loss is bound to sting, but the good news is that Duke gets to rest a bit, to heal some injuries and to maybe improve during the week.
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