Nineteen years, 150 games and one mind-boggling record... all gone in a similarly crazy night.
For the first time since before six Blue Devils were born, Duke lost to a nonconference opponent at home.
In a sloppy game full of turnovers and fast-paced action, No. 1 Duke fell in an overtime nail-biter 85-83 against Stephen F. Austin Tuesday night. With the ball loose and the clock winding down in overtime, the Lumberjacks' Nathan Bain came up with the ball, escaping for a buzzer-beating, game-winning layup in front of a stunned Cameron Indoor Stadium crowd. The Blue Devils last home nonconference loss came Feb. 26, 2000 to St. John's.
"No one on our team got back on defense really when the shot went up," Vernon Carey Jr. said on the final play. "I think it happened like four times in the second half, so it felt like it was just bound to happen."
After the Lumberjacks tied the game up with a lay-in from Gavin Kensmil, the Blue Devils missed two chances to win in regulation on shots from Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley. The teams went into overtime tied at 81.
"We were not good, and [Stephen F. Austin] made us that way," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "This isn't just about us not showing up or whatever. They played really well. Sometimes when I'm talking about what we didn't do, I don't want to disrespect their performance. Their performance was outstanding and they deserve recognition for that, not that we didn't do something. They did it to us. They made us look bad."
With the final four minutes of regulation still a back-and-forth affair, Stephen F. Austin took a three-point lead after a Stanley charge and things looked grim for Duke. Then, Carey pulled the Blue Devils within one while Stanley gave the Blue Devils the lead back with a triple. The Lumberjacks answered back with a three from David Kachelries to take a 78-77 lead with under two minutes to play.
"We just felt like they out-fought us tonight, that's what hurts," senior captain Jack White said. "That's something that we want our identity to be, you know. No one plays harder than us, no one defends harder than us. I know we all regret it."
Stephen F. Austin ranks tops in the nation in turnovers forced per game with almost 26 per contest, and, despite the experience of Jones, the Blue Devils coughed the ball up 22 times. The Lumberjacks also matched Duke in its own game, tying the offensive rebound battle despite the Blue Devils leading the country in that category.
"They're an old group, older guys," Jones said on their opponent's defense. "They're strong, athletic guys, but they gamble a ton. So if you're not strong with it, if you're not sharp, then you're definitely going to turn the ball over and that was our issue tonight."
Duke broke out to a 15-point lead in the opening period, but a response by the opposition made the second half a back-and-forth affair, with the Blue Devils failing to stretch the lead to anything more than seven points. Stephen F. Austin easily found points in the paint, and Duke struggled from the free throw line all night. With eight minutes to play in the contest, the Lumberjacks took their first lead since the opening minute of the game, at 64-62.
After six straight victories to start the season, a 2K Empire Classic title and a No. 1 ranking, the Blue Devils simply collapsed.
"It's my responsibility obviously, we did not respond well to winning in New York," Krzyzewski emphasized. "No matter what we set or attain, my feeling is they thought that they were just going to win. I'm not even going to say they thought it was going to be easy because nothing is ever easy. But they just assume you're going to win, instead of 'we're going to be in a fight.'"
Although Duke (6-1) came into the game just 171st in the country in field-goal percentage, the Blue Devils shot 57.7 percent during the first half, including a 9-for-11 start to the contest. A shooting performance of that caliber should spell trouble for the underdog Lumberjacks. However, 11 turnovers in the first frame allowed for Stephen F. Austin to erase a 15-point deficit. Duke took just a 45-40 lead at the end of the first half.
"We didn't respond at timeouts or at halftime to a different level of emotion, and we lost," Krzyzewski said. "It's a very difficult loss, but it's also a loss where if we would have won, we would not be deserving of winning."
Stephen F. Austin (5-1) was paced by leading-scorer Kevon Harris, who finished with 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting. The senior physically overwhelmed Stanley and fellow freshman Wendell Moore, scoring 20 of his points in the first half. However, the Blue Devils came out with an answer for Harris, who scored just six points in the second half.
"We just decided to take it personal," Stanley said on how the team adjusted on Harris. "Coach told me, 'Don't let him score in the second half,' and that's what I tried to do. But, other guys stepped up and it's a team thing, not just an individual thing. We deserved to lose for sure."
Things didn't exactly go the Blue Devils way coming out of the break either. Three minutes into the second half, Cameron started rocking. Jones found Stanley on a baseline out-of-bounds play for an intense slam, then Duke forced another turnover with a jump-ball. Despite the crowd, it wasn't enough to keep the Lumberjacks down.
The Blue Devils will look to bounce back Friday when the Big South's Winthrop, which already has one top-25 win this season, comes to Cameron. Then, the schedule ramps up with a pair of road bouts against No. 3 Michigan State and Virginia Tech, which beat the Spartans Monday.
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