Well, there’s not much nuance left to Duke’s 2020-’21 basketball season. The Blue Devils have to go to Greensboro next week and win basketball games. Lots of them.
Unfortunately, Duke has an opportunity to win lots of games.
North Carolina’s 91-73 drubbing of Duke Saturday night in the Smith Center dropped Duke to the 10th seed in the ACC Tournament. Tenth seed is something we usually talk about when discussing Duke’s overall NCAA seed after a down season.
But not this year.
And make no mistake, Duke looked every bit the part of an ACC 10th seed. As is their habit, North Carolina started all their seniors on Senior Day, four, Garrison Brooks, Andrew Platek and a couple of guys you’ve never heard of.
So Duke starts out with a charge, four missed layups and never led, never came close after the Tar Heels extended a 4-2 lead to 18-4 after seven minutes. It was the kind of night when deep reserve Walker Miller drew a charge on D.J. Steward and blocked Jeremy Roach in the game’s first two minutes.
“Roy [Williams] had his team really prepared,” Mike Krzyzewski said. “It’s Senior Night and their fans were great and I didn’t have my team prepared the way they did. Coming off these two tough losses, I thought the things we did in practice were really good but they didn’t come to fruition, they didn’t work out, because they really knocked us back.”
Mark Williams gives the player’s perspective.
“For them, they came out really aggressive and for us we didn’t respond to that. That created that lead and it was tough for us to come back from that. We started fighting towards the end but it was too little, too late at that point.”
It was pretty much a total team breakdown in the first half. Duke could handle the ball, defend, shoot or rebound. Duke turned it over five times in three minutes early and missed their first five 3-pointers and ended the game shooting a woeful 5 for 27 from beyond the arc.
It was 42-26 at the half.
Duke’s effort and offensive execution were much better after intermission. But you can’t string together a run without stringing together defensive stops.
Which Duke couldn’t do.
“You can’t trade baskets,” Steward acknowledged. “We’ve just got to get stops and fight. That’s the main thing.”
The closest Duke got in the second half was 13 points, after a Wendell Moore jumper made it 44-31. Duke got a rare stop and had a chance to cut deeper into the lead. But Jaemyn Brakefield missed a 3, Kerwin Walton hit a 3 and Duke never got that close again.
On to Greensboro.
What does Duke have to do before then?
“The biggest thing is just to believe in ourselves,” Williams said. “Everyone is going to be doubting us but at this point it’s us against everybody. It’s a new season and we’re going to have to take it one game at a time and go from there.”
Krzyzewski reiterated the one-game-at-a-time-narrative and added that he needs to figure it out.
“In order to win, you can’t look at the tournament as a whole. You just have to play your next opponent and that’s it and win and try to win again. If you try to look at the whole thing it’s going to be daunting. . . . I need to help them more, confidence wise and coaching wise. I didn’t help them enough.”
The loss drops Duke to 11-11 overall and 9-9 in the ACC. Duke’s last .500 ACC regular season came back in 2007, when Duke went 8-8.
The final stats were as grim as one might expect. North Carolina outrebounded Duke 38-31, while shooting 55 percent from the field, 44 percent on 3s and 81 percent from the line. Duke hit 41 percent from the field and that 18.5 from beyond the arc. Duke did force 20 turnovers, most of them well after the outcome had been decided.
Williams led Duke with 18 points but grabbed only three rebounds against UNC’s imposing front line. Steward added 16 points, Matt Hurt 14 and Roach 10, with Hurt shooting an abysmal 2 for 10 on 3s.
Armando Bacot, Walton and Caleb Love each scored 18 points for the Tar Heels, with Love adding 7 assists.
Tip-off Tuesday against Boston College scheduled for 4:30.
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Player Of The Game vs. UNC
This poll is closed