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What Can Duke Take Away From the FSU Loss…

Posted By Chris Girandola On Jan 13 2011 @ 1:56 pm In Duke | No Comments

Once again, fans stormed the court as soon as the final horn sounded to signal an upset of Duke.  This time, with FSU’s 66-61 home win over Duke ending the Blue Devils’ 25-game winning streak, it occurred when the Blue Devils were supposedly a sure thing to become the first team to go undefeated since, well, the stone ages.

The collective basketball world, including fans and media alike, are now all in a huff about it.  Dick Vitale guffawed about it.  The crew of  Adam Zucker, Wally Szczerbiak, Jon Rothstein and Duke’s own Alaa Abdelnaby on CBS College Sports Network’s show Inside College Basketball bemoaned the ails of Duke without Kyrie Irving and the lack of inside play.  Even Mike Krzyzewski postulated in the post-game interview how Duke is not “a great team since Kyrie’s injury but we have a chance to be a good team.”

Yes, Duke was exposed once again with the lack of post play (as I had pointed out after the Maryland game) as Mason and Miles Plumlee combined to go 1-for-4 from the floor.  And yes, the Blue Devils reverted to shooting three-pointers as a way to combat their weaknesses, putting up 35 long distance shots (making only 11) or an astonishingly 57 percent of their total field goal attempts.

But here’s the deal:  there’s no cause for concern.  One can only look to last season as a sign that Coach K and the rest of the Duke coaching staff will find a way to turn lemons into lemonade.

When Duke suffered its first loss against Wisconsin in the 2009-10 campaign, it was the first time the Blue Devils had been handed a loss in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  Trevon Hughes scored a career-high 26 points and, once the horn sounded on the Badgers’ 73-69 upset of the Blue Devils, fans rushed the court and Hughes proclaimed afterwards in a post-game, on-court interview that “anything was possible from here on out.”

The Badgers would go on to lose eight games after that shocking win, including a second-round defeat to Ivy League champion Cornell in the NCAA Tournament.

When Duke lost for the second time to Georgia Tech for its first ACC defeat on January 9th, the critics wondered how the Yellow Jackets could have beaten the Blue Devils just days after losing to Georgia, “a team that doesn’t have nearly as much talent.”  Gani Lawal scored 21 points, the most he would drop during the entire ACC season as Georgia Tech won for the third time in the past 27 games against Duke and proclaimed afterwards as fans rushed the court that when the Yellow Jackets “were on top of our game, no one can stop us.”

Georgia Tech would go on to lose 10 games following that stunner over the fifth-ranked Blue Devils with the last loss coming in the second round of the NCAA tourney to Ohio State.

When Duke endured a shocker against N.C. State for the Blue Devils’ third loss of the 09-10 campaign, it had similarities  to the FSU loss on Wednesday.  The Wolfpack had suffered consecutive defeats to Virginia and Florida in the previous week, teams that were described as having “far inferior talent” to Duke.

Much like the Seminoles following up the Auburn loss last week with a much-improved effort against the Blue Devils, the Wolfpack did the same as Tracy Smith (23 points) and Dennis Horner (20 points) scored the most points for their conference play in 09-10.  After the loss, N.C. State fans rushed the court and an ESPN article stated that “this was hardly the outcome anyone had expected…Duke had looked every bit like the top team in the ACC” before its loss to N.C. State.

Hmmm, sound familiar?

N.C. State, however, would not be able to use the win to springboard itself into a successful finish as the Wolfpack lost 10 games following the Duke victory, including a second-round defeat to UAB in the second round of the NIT

Duke’s fourth loss came to a talented Georgetown squad on the second to last day of January in the first ever sellout of the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.  Fans wore gray shirts as a part of the “gray-out” day to invoke excitement and President Obama was in attendance (which prevented fans from rushing the court) as the Hoyas shot 71.7 percent from the floor for their best shooting percentage since it shot 71.9 percent against St. John’s in 1980.  The 89-77 defeat was the first road loss versus an AP Top 25 non-conference foe since 1997 (UCLA) as the “stars were aligned properly” for the Hoyas, according to Georgetown coach John Thompson III.

The stars went out of place for the Hoyas the rest of the season as Georgetown lost seven times following the Duke win, including the first round upset by Ohio in the NCAA tourney.

Duke’s final loss of the season came on the road against Maryland as the Terrapins gave their rabid fans a 79-72 victory over the fourth-ranked Blue Devils.  Greivis Vasquez played out-of-his-mind as the senior guard made one acrobatic shot after another on the way to a team-high 20 points.

Yes, fans rushed the court again as Vasquez proclaimed that “the dream came true.”  Unfortunately, for the Terrapins, the dream would end in the second round of the NCAAs in an 85-83 defeat to Michigan State.

So, what can Duke learn from last season and how can the Blue Devils use those lessons in recovering from the FSU loss?

Like the teams last season, FSU played out of their minds with Derwin Kitchen scoring 17 of his 22 points in the second half after coming into the game averaging just 9.5 points a game.   Like last year, Duke played horribly as it shot a season-worst 31.1 percent from the floor and put up a season-high 35 three-pointers.

And like last season, fans rushed the floor.  Who knows where FSU’s season will go, but it’s clear from the way Coach K and his staff figured out how to recover from losses last year that this loss to FSU is no reason to worry.

“This now gives us a chance to get back to the drawing board to see what we have to do,” Nolan Smith said.   “You can try to learn from wins but it’s not the same. Everyone is still happy about a win even if you played bad. Now, with the loss we can get mad, put our heads down. Or we can say, hey, let’s learn from this and get better. We will be a better team come Saturday.”

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