Duke freshman Jalen Johnson returned to full energy Tuesday, however the Blue Devils had been unable to depart Pittsburgh with a victory despite the very best efficiency of his younger profession.
The Blue Devils, who trailed by as many 15 factors within the second half, put collectively a valiant effort over the ultimate 16 minutes, however finally fell to Pitt, 79-73.
After falling behind by these 15 factors with 16:29 to go within the second half, Duke responded by outscoring the Panthers 16-7 over the following 5 and half minutes, reducing the result in six – 62-56. Issues stalled briefly, however the Blue Devils put collectively one other run and finally climbed to inside two factors twice – as soon as with 5:38 left on the clock and the opposite with 2:03 remaining.
Sadly for them, they might by no means full the comeback.
“Jeff’s group is superb,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski stated. “They usually in all probability have a participant of the yr within the convention in (Justin) Champagnie. He’s terrific. And he and (Au’Diese) Toney give them that toughness and the expertise that different guys can construct off of. In saying that, we had our alternatives to win the sport.”
Whereas the comeback bid was a optimistic, and one thing Duke can construct upon, the frustration for Krzyzewski and his gamers was evident. The subject of dialogue following the sport was not about how the group fought its manner again, it was extra centered on one more lackluster begin.
In what appears to be an unlucky, but creating theme, Duke fell behind Pitt 8-Zero over the primary two-plus minutes of the sport. And from that time ahead, sans 4 temporary lead modifications and three ties, the Blue Devils had been taking part in from behind.
Sophomore Wendell Moore Jr., who was Duke’s second main scorer with 15 factors, was disheartened by the group’s effort to begin the sport.
“We shouldn’t put ourself in that place within the first place,” a clearly irritated Moore stated. “The final two video games we began out not too good, taking place 10, 12 early. Within the second half we had been down 15 early. And we shouldn’t should hold preventing again. We ought to be the group that comes out and fights first. We ought to be the group that goes up 10-Zero and make the opposite group combat again.”
Oftentimes, post-loss feedback from gamers are a regurgitation of what Krzyzewski says to the group within the locker room earlier than opening up the room to the media. In actual fact, it sounds rehearsed at instances.
Whereas this was clearly the message that was introduced to them following the loss by Krzyzewski and the remainder of the teaching workers, there was emotion connected to Moore’s response.
And to be sincere, a lot of that probably comes from disappointing their coach. Sometimes, such efforts would possibly draw extra anger from Krzyzewski, and perhaps it did within the locker room, however he was subdued following the loss. Participant responses to the 2 – anger and disappointment – are sometimes very completely different.
Johnson, who completed with 24 factors, 15 rebounds, seven assists, 4 blocks, two steals and 0 turnovers, didn’t need to speak a lot about his particular person effort. As a substitute, he needed to speak about how he and his group didn’t do their job to begin the sport.
“It’s the sport plan earlier than the sport,” Johnson stated when requested what Duke has to do to get off to higher begins. “The principle factor on the board was be hungry, have toughness – we’ve bought to field out. It wasn’t international to us.
“We knew the sport plan and what we would have liked to do to win. We simply didn’t execute it like we must always’ve.”
Once more, their coach’s disappointment appeared to have hit dwelling with the group.
“Probably the most disappointing factor for me was our begin,” Krzyzewski stated. “We now have practiced so onerous, tried various things, and for me to should name a timeout after two minutes just isn’t acceptable. It’s simply not acceptable. You’re down 10 to nothing or no matter it was. To me that was probably the most disappointing factor – is how we began.”
Along with his frustration with Duke’s gradual begin, Krzyzewski was not all that happy with the Blue Devils lack of ability to finish free throw alternatives, or on the flip aspect, hold the Panthers off the road.
Duke dedicated 24 fouls, giving Pitt 37 free throw makes an attempt within the recreation. In actual fact, the Panthers made extra free throws (24) than Duke tried (19). Pitt made simply 64.9% of these tries, however the Blue Devils had been worse, making solely 11 of their makes an attempt, good for simply 57.9%.
“If you go up, you’ve bought to hit each of 1 and ones, not one in every of them,” Krzyzewski stated. “If you drive the ball in the event you’re fouled, you’ve bought to place that rattling factor in each now and again … We’re 11 for 19 from the free throw line. And in just a few vital instances.
“To their credit score, they executed proper on the finish of clocks at instances. They usually bought to the foul line. They shot 37 free throws. We’ve bought to do a greater job of blocking out. The rebounds had been even, however we fouled lots. For them to get 37 free throws, you’re not going to win very many video games that manner.”
Within the first half, level guard Jeremy Roach saved Duke within the recreation, scoring 10 of his 11 factors. Nobody else actually offered a gradual effort within the first half. Roach disappeared within the second half, although, lacking all six of his photographs and making simply one in every of two free throws.
Matthew Damage was a non-factor, scoring simply 4 factors within the first half. He finally completed the sport with 13 factors, however he was not the affect participant Duke wanted him to be.
Duke’s predominant second half lineup that includes Johnson, Moore, Damage, Roach and Steward, started to discover a rhythm. Most of that was as a result of play of Johnson, who scored 18 of his factors, and grabbed 10 of his rebounds within the second half alone. He additionally posted 4 of his seven assists and all 4 of his blocks within the half.
He was the aggressor, and created for the Blue Devils all half lengthy. Whereas there was not a complete lot that Krzyzewski was pleased with, his freshman’s efforts was one in every of them.
“We hit on a superb unit, they usually put us able to win the sport,” Krzyzewski stated. “That efficiency (from Jalen Johnson) put us able to win. That’s surprising as a result of we haven’t had him. He’s simply in all probability had about 4 practices.
“He was a fantastic playmaker for us and he defended our bucket for us.”
Even nonetheless, the reflection of the sport was one in every of disappointment. Disappointment within the begin. Disappointment within the end.
Now for Duke, it’s about utilizing the emotion generated from such a loss and turning it into positives.
“It was a troublesome loss for us, as a result of that group did play successful basketball and put us able the place we had an opportunity to win,” Krzyzewski added.
“We are able to’t afford to be down. We now have to reply.”