Duke basketball's late collapse raises red flags for postseason
As his team lost its composure down the stretch in an 82-72 loss to Wake Forest, head coach Mike Krzyzewski began showing the ill effects of light-headedness that plagued him in the second half. He remained in the locker room after the game to receive treatment from the team's training staff.
"I think just the emotion of the game [affected him]," associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. "Obviously, we weren't playing as well as we needed. There's a great emotional investment into the game and I think maybe the emotion got the better of him."
Duke's chances of winning deteriorated along with Krzyzewski's physical condition. The Blue Devils held a 66-59 advantage with 5:44 left in the contest after an easy dunk by freshman Jabari Parker and appeared a couple of buckets away from sealing the victory.
The Blue Devils failed to replicate their ball movement and activity away from the ball during their next seven possessions, committing three turnovers, missing three 3-pointers and having a layup blocked to fuel Wake Forest's game-defining 17-0 run.
Just as in Duke's last loss to North Carolina, the Blue Devils were not tough enough to hold a late lead on the road and their offensive aggressiveness disappeared.
"They made us take some tough shots. They're long on the wings with [Travis] McKie and [Codi Miller-McIntyre]," point guard Quinn Cook said. "We couldn't get anything going.... We didn't execute at the end, and they wanted it more with their rebounding and their defense."
With Parker and redshirt sophomores Rodney Hood and Marshall Plumlee all hampered with four fouls down the stretch, Duke saw its paint opportunities disappear. The Blue Devils' 19 offensive rebounds sparked their offense throughout the game, but Duke's interior players were hesitant to continue crashing the glass with the possibility of a fifth foul looming.
The Blue Devils also did not share the ball enough against Wake Forest's zone to get Parker—who finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting—and Hood the ball at the high post area or on the baseline where they could attack the basket.
Duke more resembled the hesitant squad that gave up a 13-2 run at Clemson and a 20-4 run at Notre Dame to take itself out of the game with poor perimeter shooting than a team with lofty postseason goals.
"I thought at times we settled for perimeter jump shots," Wojciechowski said. "We weren't able to get the penetration we would like to get and we didn't get to the foul line. We can't be a team that just relies on perimeter jump shots."
After its 6-of-27 performance from beyond the arc Wednesday night, Duke has now shot 27 percent from the 3-point line in its last four games. The Blue Devils have gone 2-2 during their ice-cold stretch, winning the two home games by staying aggressive and playing together and dropping the road contests by losing themselves in individual scoring battles.
Duke had 14 more assists than turnovers against Virginia Tech and Syracuse and eight more turnovers than assists against North Carolina and Wake Forest.
"I don't think we played together down the stretch," Hood said. "I think once shots didn't fall and they started scoring, we tried to rush to score rather than being patient.... We didn't play connected on the offensive end."
Although Duke's offense faltered down the stretch, the Blue Devils never defended well enough to earn a road win in conference play.
Duke allowed Demon Deacon forwards Tyler Cavanaugh and Arnaud William Adala Moto—who average a combined 15.5 points per game—to score 32 points and grab eight offensive rebounds. Cavanaugh poured in a career-high 20 points thanks to the foul-plagued Duke forwards and 12 free-throw attempts.
In its standard man-to-man defense that has sparked Duke's biggest wins of the season, the Blue Devils had difficulty staying in front of Wake Forest's players. The Demon Deacons shot 34 free throws by individually beating Duke defenders off the bounce or in the post.
"When things got tough—when Wake Forest got momentum—what we would have needed to do is come together and be tougher," Wojciechowski said. "We didn't do that."