Twice in as many weeks the Blue Devils had a chance to ascend and lockdown first place and in both instances they lost to double-digit to an unranked team. The latest being a 9 point lead evaporation in the waning seconds against Wake Forest. The Blue Devils simply needed to inbound the ball take a few dribbles and run out the clock but instead a mishandling of a pass by Jordan Goldwire and in the next sequence an offensive foul committed by the junior guard gave Wake Forest life. The game went to double overtime where Brandon Childress took control.
The Blue Devils, who were riddled with foul trouble throughout the game, had every opportunity to close out the Demon Deacons but 16 turnovers and 26.1% shooting from beyond the arc sealed Duke’s fate late. Wake went on to take the game 113 to 101 as the Blue Devils ran out of gas, only managing 4 points in the second overtime.
The mental errors have clearly been an area of concern for the Blue Devils this season and Coach K did not hold back in his criticism of his team in his post game comments, exclaiming, “I’m disappointed in our group. I didn’t think we came the way we should and the way we practiced. We show our youth so much, Tre (Jones) is the veteran but then we’re young. This is our 28th game you’d think we’d be older by now.”
The Blue Devils continued to reach and pick up fouls even after Wake was in the bonus, choosing to go for the homerun punch instead of playing the defensive sequences out causing the Demon Deacons, who are one of the ACC’s top free throw shooting teams to get comfortable and to score at the line to the tune of 37-50 from the stripe.
Diagnosing the Blue Devil ails begins with multiple points of concern. I am never one to write off a team but there are several areas where the Blue Devils will need to improve in. Ball-handling is a major concern for a team with only one capable point guard, that is not to say Jordan Goldwire is not a good player but his strengths lie defensively. Aside from sophomore Tre Jones there really isn’t another ball handler on the team which makes this team uber dependent on the sophomore. This Duke team has had some highs and lows but the lows are often triggered by a lack of energy on the road coupled with a carelessness when it comes to valuing the ball.
There are game where you are going to not have good days shooting, there are games where you turn the ball over more than you should but for the Blue Devils, they are allowing both of those things to happen. If a team as young as this one is going to progress toward any sort of post season success then they are going to have to age rapidly in the next few games as the margin for error is increasingly shrinking.
Having given away several opportunities to cement themselves and finish the regular season on a high note the team, although working hard, just hasn’t quite turned the corner as of yet. There is still work to do but that work starts with better communication and much better basketball IQ.
If there is a coaching staff capable of turning the slumping devils around its Coach K and crew but it has to start with each player holding the man next to him accountable.