concluded February by making 10-of-20 threes in a victory at
. The Blue Devils were 26-4, ranked fourth nationally and the
’s best shooting team from beyond the arc.
In four March games, Duke was 22-of-93 from deep (23.8 percent). Not coincidentally, the Blue Devils lost three of them, none more devastating or stunning than Friday’s 75-70
tournament setback to Lehigh.
The Mountain Hawks became the sixth No. 15 seed to conquer a No. 2 because, in large measure, Duke missed 20-of-26 threes.
Seth Curry was 1-of-7, Andre Dawkins 1-of-6,
2-of-7. The lone makes from Curry and Dawkins bordered on inconsequential, coming as they did in the final two minutes after Lehigh had seized command.
“I don't have an explanation,” said forward
, who made all nine of his point-blank shots and scored 19 points. “We should have addressed it. We should have gotten on one another. But for whatever reason, we couldn't get in sync, offensively in particular.”
Part of the reason was forward Ryan Kelly’s absence. He is Duke’s No. 3 scorer and rebounder, and, most important, the team’s most accurate 3-point shooter at 40.8 percent. At 6-foot-11, Kelly stretched defenses, creating more space and better angles for guards such as
, Curry and Dawkins.
Kelly sustained a sprained foot during a practice before the ACC tournament and missed the final three Without him, Duke too often stood and watched Rivers go one-on-one, sets that often ended with forced shots in the lane.
“I think (Kelly) would have been a tremendous difference,” said a gracious C.J. McCollum, the Lehigh guard who scored a game-high 30 points.
wasn’t buying it, at least not publicly.
“Well, yeah, but I don't want to blame it on that,” he said. “We have had a week after the ACC tournament to prepare, and we did prepare certain things, but we didn't execute them. At this time of the year, you should be as instinctive as possible. And when you introduce something new at this time of the year, there's a tendency not to be in sync, especially with the pressure of the game or how well a team is playing against you.
“And that to me, that added to the being tentative. … There were spurts that we had, but the last three ballgames we have been just kind of mucking it out offensively, and again tonight.”
No Duke player closed the season worse than Dawkins, a junior from Chesapeake. After making 6-of-9 shots and scoring 22 points in a late February victory at
, Dawkins shot 3-for-21 in the final six games. He was 2-for-9 overall Friday.
Miles Plumlee faulted the Blue Devils for not matching Lehigh’s intensity.
“They just played tough, hard-nosed defense,” he said. “They were denying the post, denying the passing lanes, playing physical, crashing the boards. That's what you expect. A lot of us have been through this before, and that's what every team brings in the tournament. We need to match that from the get go.”
Friday’s defeat marked the fourth one-and-done for Krzyzewski in 28 NCAA tournaments, an event in which he’s won a record 79 games. The last time Duke exited this early was 2007, to VCU.
“The worst loss I've ever had as a coach was with our national team in the World Championships in 2006 to Greece, because that was for my country and you don't get too many of them,” Krzyzewski said. “Though that's the only loss we have had.
“So for me, my program, you're on a continuum. There are four years [national championships] that we ended up with a win in my 37 years. It's not football where you have a bowl game and 35 people end up with a win out of a hundred. So when that loss comes and how it's inflicted, you just take responsibility for it.
“I think overall my team did a great job this year. But we did not do a really good job this last week-and-a-half, and so that's upsetting. Because no matter what happens, injury or whatever, you're responsible for trying to figure out a way that your team can play well. And so that's on me.”
Like many coaches at this level, Krzyzewski now waits to see if he loses any players early to the
, specifically Rivers, the son of
coach Doc Rivers. Duke’s only significant senior is Miles Plumlee.
In four seasons at Duke, Plumlee was part of three ACC championships and a national title. But those were little consolation Friday.
“Yeah, I've been a part of some amazing teams,” he said, “and I had some amazing accomplishments, but people remember you for how you leave, and this isn't how I wanted to leave.”
Krzyzewski's first head-coaching victory came in 1975, when he guided Army over Lehigh. He said Thursday he had no recollection of that game.
He's unlikely to ever forget Friday's.
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