Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski liked what he saw when his team rallied from a late deficit against the No. 6 team in the country in its last outing. The conclusion of that game, however, was much less encouraging.
After giving up a game-winning layup in the final second of their first conference loss, the Blue Devils - still ranked No. 1 for now - look to bounce back by extending their dominance at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Sunday when they meet ACC rival Virginia.
Duke (18-2, 5-1) took over the top spot in the AP poll with a 5-0 start to ACC play only to lose its first game as No. 1 on Wednesday night. The Blue Devils allowed Wake Forest forward James Johnson to get to the basket off an inbounds play and make an open layup in the final second that sent them to a 70-68 loss to the sixth-ranked Demon Deacons.
“We were not physical on that play,” Krzyzewski said. “We deserve to lose if you don’t do that.”
Though ultimately disappointing, the loss gave Krzyzewski reason to be optimistic. His team rallied from a 13-point deficit with 8:49 remaining to tie the game with 10 seconds left before its defensive lapse.
“I thought there was a fierce determination on the part of that group of kids,” Krzyzewski said. “That was neat to see. You can’t practice that.
“It appears that it’s not going to be your night and through effort and determination you almost make it your night and one play knocks you back. That’s one of the tough things about sport. The fact that we had that type of determination shows that we have good heart on the team.”
Krzyzewski hopes his team shows more of that competitiveness as it tries to remain undefeated at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils are 12-0 there this season, and have won 27 of 28 at home since the beginning of 2007-08. Their lone loss in that stretch came against archrival and then-No. 1 North Carolina on March 8 of last season.
Duke has won 12 straight home games against Virginia (7-9, 1-4) since a 91-88 double-overtime loss Jan. 14, 1995. The Blue Devils have been ranked in each of their last 27 overall meetings with the Cavaliers, and are 24-3 in that stretch. They’re 14-0 all-time in the series when ranked No. 1.
That doesn’t bode well for a Virginia team that’s lost four straight ACC games since opening conference play with an 88-84 overtime win at Georgia Tech on Dec. 28. The Cavaliers were held to three field goals in the first half of a 73-62 home loss to Florida State last Saturday, finishing the game 17-for-48 (35.4 percent).
Virginia coach Dave Leitao credited Florida State’s defense.
“With the few open looks that you get and make and the other times that you don’t, you have to really work to get balanced and quality shots and obviously we didn’t do that,” he said. “And obviously we paid a price for it.”
Leitao’s team could again have its hands full against Duke, the only team in the ACC that allows fewer points per game (60.0) than Florida State (63.3). The Blue Devils had given up an average of 51.6 points in conference play before Wednesday night’s loss.
Duke, though, had offensive struggles of its own in its last game, shooting a season-low 33.3 percent from the field and missing 18 of its 22 3-point attempts.
“We’re still not shooting the way I hope we’ll be able to shoot,” Krzyzewski said.