Moments after Lee Melchionni fouled out with 3:09 remaining in the overtime period against Maryland Saturday night, Reggie Love stood up from the end of the bench and removed his warm-ups.
Love, who was in uniform for the first time since breaking a bone in his right foot against Clemson Jan. 2, seemed to plead with the coaches to insert him into the game, but he was ushered back to his seat, where he remained to watch walk-ons Patrick Davidson and Ross Perkins play for the rest of the 99-92 loss.
Although his 6-foot-4 frame would have been helpful Saturday—even if just to contribute five additional fouls—his return to the Blue Devil lineup is only days away, which is a good thing for the depleted Duke squad.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski predicted Feb. 7 that Love’s return was still weeks away. But after Love suited up for the game against the Terrapins and completed some individual workouts Sunday, Krzyzewski said he expected Love will play this week. The senior was scheduled to undergo X-rays Monday to make sure everything had healed properly.
Freshman David McClure, though, may not be cleared as soon as the team had expected. Krzyzewski had originally said McClure, who had surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee Feb. 1, would return this week ahead of Love. But Krzyzewski was not as hopeful Monday, saying McClure has not healed as quickly as anticipated.
Although it is clear that the Blue Devils have lacked depth all season, the injuries to Love and McClure left Duke with only seven regular contributors Saturday, five of whom fouled out by game’s end. Krzyzewski said over his team’s last four games, the disadvantage posed by the Blue Devils’ short bench has been magnified.
“Our defense hasn’t been consistent. We’ve given up too many points—over 80 points a game,” Krzyzewski said. “Part of that has to do with we haven’t been as disciplined in handling our foul situation. We’ve got to be smarter about it. We can’t have a kid playing 11 minutes and fouling out.”
In addition to the personal fouls, in two of Duke’s three losses—Wake Forest Feb. 2 and Saturday to Maryland—technical fouls assessed to point guard Daniel Ewing have led to his eventual disqualification. Although Krzyzewski described Ewing as one of the “most mild-mannered kids I’ve ever coached,” the senior’s actions have changed the complexion of two winnable games, leaving the Blue Devils without their primary ball-handler and on-the-ball defender in the closing minutes.
Duke’s three top players have all been averaging more than 34 minutes a game in ACC play, including J.J. Redick’s 38.7. Krzyzewski said he is accustomed to his players, particularly his guards, playing a lot of minutes and prepared them during the off-season accordingly.
“I just knew he was going to play an extraordinary amount of minutes,” Krzyzewski said of Redick. “Because he’s a shooter, his legs would have to be in greater shape than even Daniel Ewing or Sean Dockery. He has to be in better condition than his teammates because he’s still going to have to rely on those legs to get shots late in the ball game.”
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