ANN ARBOR, Mich. - What a difference 15 days can make.
Just two weeks after defeating Michigan in the 2K Sports Classic final in Madison Square Garden, No. 4 Duke could not contain the Wolverines' Princeton-style offense the second time around, falling 81-73 in a sold-out Crisler Arena Saturday. It was the Blue Devils' first loss of the season.
Playing in an atmosphere usually reserved for football games at Michigan Stadium, the Blue Devils (8-1) shot 21.2 percent from 3-point range and missed countless open shots in their second road game this week against a Big Ten opponent.
"We knew they were a good team. They played with us for most of that [2K Sports] game, and we pulled away at the end," junior guard Jon Scheyer said. "We've played hungry all year, but today I don't think we played hungry.... I don't know what it was about this game."
Although the Blue Devils were able to create separation from Michigan (6-2) in the second half of the team's first meeting in New York, this time, the Wolverines were able to distance themselves from Duke with a second-half run of their own.
After Lance Thomas gave the Blue Devils a 53-50 advantage with just under nine minutes to play, Michigan freshman guard Zack Novak hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Wolverines a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way.
After the ensuing Duke timeout, Scheyer hit an open layup to cut the lead to one. That, however, was the closest the Blue Devils would get. Behind the strong inside play of DeShawn Sims-who gave Duke fits all afternoon en route to a game-high 28 points-Michigan opened up a nine-point lead with just more than three minutes to play and never looked back.
"I think at tough points in this game, the crowd, their team, their coaching staff were terrific, and they were able to make big plays," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "They made some really big plays when we got two leads in the second half."
The two teams played evenly for the game's first 30 minutes, seesawing through eight lead changes with no team opening up a lead of more than six points. Early in the second half, after junior Kyle Singler's only three of the game and a few baskets by Scheyer gave Duke a 44-40 lead, it looked as if the Blue Devils would build a sustainable lead.
Sims, however, would not let that happen. The junior forward scored 17 of his 28 points in the second-half,?many of which came from inside the paint or at the foul line, where he went 6-for-7 down the stretch.
"We've been known for our defense and rebounding, but they picked us apart tonight," sophomore guard Nolan Smith said. "They were able to get into our paint and score with ease, at will, and that's the main thing."
Krzyzewksi said he was worried about the matchup with Michigan after his team's impressive 16-point win over No. 9 Purdue Dec. 2. He anticipated the Wolverines' best effort playing at home, but probably did not imagine his team shooting 7-for-33 from beyond the arc, including an abysmal 2-for-18 in the first half, against a Michigan 1-3-1 zone that allows for long-range shots.
Despite the many misses from the perimeter, Duke found itself very much in the game in the second half, but could not get the defensive stops when it counted. When the threes finally started to fall as the Blue Devils played catch-up in the game's final minutes, Wolverine guards Manny Harris and Kelvin Grady secured the ball and prevented Duke from causing any turnovers.
With 1:36 left, Harris found a seam in the Blue Devil defense, blowing by Scheyer for an emphatic dunk that put the Wolverines up 72-65 and sent the Maize Rage into a frenzy-a feeling that will stick with Duke now, but the Blue Devils hope will help them in the long run.
"If you just play people so that you can have wins, then eventually it'll catch up to you," Krzyzewski said. "If you put yourself in that [atmosphere], maybe you get a little bit better and hopefully by the end of the year, you'll have a chance to play for something really important."
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