CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- It was all kinds of bad.
Going into last night's game against Miami, few people-including the players themselves-expected the No. 5 Blue Devils to play as poorly as they did in Sunday's loss to Wake Forest, a contest that was defined by a surprisingly lackadaisical showing from the then-No. 2 team in the nation.
But instead of coming out with renewed energy and effort Wednesday, for almost 35 minutes Duke seemed to be caught in the same funk that doomed it in Winston-Salem.
From the game's early moments, it was clear that the sloppy play that had plagued the Blue Devils against the Demon Deacons had yet to be exorcised. Duke committed five turnovers before the first media timeout 4:41 into the first half, and finished the period with 14 turnovers. The team also shot a paltry 5-for-17 from behind the arc and were fortunate to find themselves down only five points at the intermission.
"We should have come out playing with unbelievable heart and passion, and we came out, played the exact opposite," senior captain DeMarcus Nelson said. "We were careless with the ball, I had a lot of turnovers, our defense didn't get the stops from halfcourt and our offense was stagnant."
The early part of the Blue Devils' season was marked by big second-half runs to put teams away. But the reverse was true last night as the Hurricanes went on a 18-3 tear to start the half-including a back-breaking 15-0 run-that put Duke in a 20-point hole from which it would not bounce back.
Sophomore Jon Scheyer, who almost single-handedly brought the Blue Devils back from the brink with a career-high 27 points, said the loss was surprising.
"I did not think coming in here we wouldn't be ready to play, and we wouldn't come out with the win," Scheyer said. "We needed this win just as much as them, if not more. To come out and play like that and lose like that is really frustrating and disappointing."
What really doomed the Blue Devils, however, was their defense. In its last two games, Duke has given up 86 and 96 points, respectively, a huge jump over the 67 points per game the team was allowing in its first 23 contests. Miami shot an eye-popping 60 percent from the floor in the second half and finished shooting 57.4 percent.
In fact, the best defense of the night was the security guard staff that managed to keep a surging student section from storming the court.
The Blue Devils were also unable to get the fast-break points they feasted on earlier in the season, and it was not until their threes finally began to fall that the game became close again.
Even when Duke got it's first fast-break points of the night-a steal and dunk by DeMarcus Nelson to bring the score to 77-66-the Hurricanes responded 12 seconds later with a huge reverse slam by Dwayne Collins, who slaughtered the Blue Devils by going 12-of-14 from the floor and finishing with 26 points.
Simply put, every time the Blue Devils tried to bounce back, the Hurricanes beat them back down.
"We have really good players, and we didn't play like that," Scheyer said. "We didn't play like a really good team. You would have thought we had no confidence, and that's what it looked like."
As a result of the back-to-back losses, the Blue Devils will have to bank on a timely break from the ACC slate against St. John's Saturday to allow them to straighten things out.
"We definitely have to regroup," Scheyer said. "It's not about X's and O's. For us, it's about playing with heart, playing all on the line. It's one thing if you lose and you put everything on the line, it's another thing if you lose and you play passive, you turn the ball over like crazy. That's what's so tough about this loss."
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