Duke’s loss Tuesday night was nothing short of a disaster.
Three days later, the Blue Devils will have the chance to pick up the pieces, unless they want to turn into rubble.
No. 1 Duke will host Winthrop Friday night at 7 p.m. with a chance to get right following its stunning defeat to Stephen F. Austin earlier in the week, the Blue Devils’ first nonconference loss in Cameron Indoor Stadium in nearly two decades. Though its beloved streak and perfect record are broken, Duke still has four more months of basketball to play.
“We’ve just got to internally deal with it and we’re going to bounce back from it,” Blue Devil guard Cassius Stanley said after Duke’s loss Tuesday. “We can’t dwell on it. We’ve got a game on Friday [versus Winthrop] and we’ve got 30 more games. But this one hurts for sure.”
Winthrop (4-3) may not seem like a likely threat to upset the Blue Devils in Durham, but Stephen F. Austin was not exactly a prime candidate to do so itself.
Both the Eagles and Lumberjacks focus on forcing turnovers and crashing the offensive boards, with Winthrop ranking in the top 100 nationally in both offensive rebounding rate and forced turnover rate. Stephen F. Austin devised the formula on how to upset Duke (6-1), forcing 22 turnovers and securing 11 offensive rebounds, and the Eagles are set up well to execute this same game plan.
Winthrop may have all the ingredients to follow the Lumberjacks’ recipe, but that’s not to say that the Eagles have thrived on the court so far this season. Winthrop beat then-No. 18 Saint Mary’s 61-58 on the Gaels’ home court, but followed up that impressive win with a loss to East Tennessee State. Last week, the Eagles lost at home to a Tennessee Tech team whose only other win came against a Martin Methodist team that plays in the NAIA.
No matter which Winthrop team shows up in Cameron Indoor Stadium Friday, the Blue Devils will need to prove that Tuesday was a fluke should they want to remain in the discussion for best team in college basketball.
“We’re all disappointed in ourselves,” Stanley said. “The Duke lineage, they haven’t lost a nonconference game here [in Cameron Indoor Stadium] in 19 years, so for us to be that team kind of stinks. Actually, it stinks a lot. That stinks, for sure.”
After taking on the Eagles, Duke will endure its most difficult week of the season to this point, traveling to play No. 3 Michigan State Tuesday and Virginia Tech Friday for its first two true road games of 2019-20.
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