Ok, maybe it's a little bit of an alibi...
One never wants to use excuses when explaining a team's poor performance, in large part because it tends to devalue the effort of the opponent, but also because excusing the sub-par play undercuts your ability to identify and learn from your correctible mistakes going forward.
Having said that, let me say this : BC played very well and Duke has got to be tougher both mentally and physically.
Now having said THAT, let me say THIS : It was pretty obvious to anyone who has watched Duke play of late, that they were demonstrably affected by being taken out of their game-day rhythm by that wayward clownfish of a winter storm. Travelling the morning of the game ( not even having time for a pre-game shootaround) and coming off of a late, thrilling, and exhausting effort against State on Thursday certainly seemed to have a negative effect on the Devils Sunday night. It was really a shoddy effort, in general. I can't imagine what would happen if we put up an effort like that against a good...- oh wait.
"Q" Up the Big Shot - My award for Most-Out-of-It goes to Quinn Cook. He turned the ball over 3 times in the first 8 minutes, and finished the half 0-2 from the floor with 4 of Duke's 9 first-half turnovers ( Duke had only 8 the entire GAME against NC State and averages only 10.9 TOs per game. Duke's 13 turnovers for the game came on 11 !! BC steals, which means they were all "live-ball" TOs. That is bad on top of bad). Quinn's turnovers were mentally lazy and he just looked well, sedated, for lack of a better word. The second half didn't start much better, as he missed two makeable layups right out the gate, but he righted his personal ship. From the 15 minute mark on, Quinn had no turnovers and went 3-7 from the floor with 3 threes, the final one of which ( at the 1:58 mark) cut the BC lead to 2, and was a game saver. Also, let's not forget his, uh, game saving "play" at games end, where (smartly recognizing that all game long the refs were applying some sort of MMA criteria vis-a-vis calling fouls in the paint) he used a hip-check to undercut Ryan Anderson as Anderson grabbed the offensive rebound. Time then expired in the ensuing melee. Remember folks, it ain't a foul unless they call it, and they weren't calling ANYTHING in the low post yesterday. The officiating was poor, but benefited both teams.
If You Want to Throw Duke's Offense into Disarray...- The answer is to initiate the double team on Mason from the baseline side. Just like the Davidson game ( as far as I know, the only other team this year to employ this strategy), he looked utterly befuddled in the first half. Over the first 16 minutes he was 1-5 from the floor with 3 rebounds and a turnover. His and Duke's inability to solve this riddle, combined with Quinn's brain being left on the tarmac at RDU, led to a stultifying half of offense in which Duke had only 2 more made baskets than turnovers. Just like Quinn, though, Mase worked through it ( through a combination of sheer will, and the fact that the refs realized that they had to eventually start calling fouls or someone was going to get knocked out). Over the final 22 minutes he scored 17 points and grabbed 7 rebounds and shot 7-9 from the line, including 3-4 in the final minute to put Duke ahead. Since I officially declared Mason's early season FT success a fluke 5 games ago, he has gone 27-41 from the line ( 70 % ). So..you're all welcome.
This just in : Freshmen sometimes look like freshmen - Duke fans have had many reasons to be pleased with the respective seasons of Amile and Rasheed. Those reasons were nowhere to be found on Sunday. Rasheed was 1-6 from the floor and spent the majority of the second half on the bench, as did Amile, who drew the extreme version of K ire after failing on several consecutive defensive assignments, and played only 11 minutes. It happens. It's also not terribly surprising that they would get more thrown off by the change in routine, given their lack of experience dealing with such things.
Open Shots - Duke's offense never got going yesterday. The primary distinction between the first and second halves was that the Devils' stopped turning the ball over ( 9 TOs vs 4 TOs). Unfortunately, they still couldn't hit open shots. This team has demonstrated a disturbing ability to play long stretches where it misses really, really makeable baskets and Sunday's game seemed like one long missed open shot. During the nearly 4.5 minute FG-less stretch that allowed BC to take a 5 point lead with 2 minutes left, Duke just missed shots they frankly should have made.
Surpise! - We get on Duke a lot for their offensive rebound discrepancy, so when they have a game like this they deserve a heaping helping of praise. Duke grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and turned them into 18 second chance points to only 6 and 4 for BC. That's pretty much the ballgame right there.
Well, folks, you can look at this 2 ways. Either this kind of lackluster showing slaps Duke into the right mind-frame for Wednesdays big UNC matchup, or it presages some kind of dip in quality of play that will aid and abet UNC to a big upset. We'll see...