It's officially a problem: we can't win a tough game on the road.
Last night goes down as the most embarrassing loss of the season. 88-74 was the final score, and the opponent was NC State, a supposed rival who don't really have much talent this year. When it ended, the student body predictably rushed the court, celebrating their first win against Duke in 35 years (or something).
This was one of two Duke games all year that was purchased by Raycom, some North Carolina cable outfit whose only northeast affiliate is in Maine. All of which means that I didn't get to watch the game. But based on reading the recap and checking out the box score, it's easy to draw some conclusions.
1) We didn't come out with any balls. Here was K's postgame quote: "I wish we would've come with more energy than we came with tonight. They came with superb energy and you want to be in a game where both teams are playing at that level. We could never match their level of play."
Couldn't match their level of play? NC State? You're ranked #6 in the country, coach! I don't care if this game was on the road. I don't care if the team had to wear clogs. You win this game! Or you're at least competitive. A 14-point loss in a rivalry game is just inexcusable, especially in late January.
2) The defense, normally great, took a night off. 88 is the most points we've conceded all year, and it's not even close. State's field goal percentage was a ridiculous 58%. That could mean one of two things; either they got a lot of easy shots, or got lucky and had an abnormally accurate shooting night. The fact that their leading scorer is a post player, and went 10-12 from the field, makes me lean toward the former.
3) We outrebounded them by a wide, wide margin, 38-23, and we even had 16 offensive boards. How do you lose a game with those stats? This is how: 22-57 from the field, for an ugly 38%. In a trend that does not make me the least bit happy, Scheyer seems to be a main culprit. Last night, he was 2-9 from inside the arc. He actually shot better from behind, going 3-7. His touch has been sporadic for most of the year, and we appear to be in the middle of a downswing.
4) Outside of the Three S-Keteers, we only had 13 points of production. Miles Plumlee only played 10 minutes. Mason only played 13. What's the deal there? I'd love some insight from any NC readers who got to watch the game.
5) In terms of stats, this game looks like an anomaly. But great teams find ways to fight back when things aren't clicking, and Duke couldn't manage the trick.
So. We've had three road games this year, and we're 0-3. Needless to say, I don't have a lot of faith in the team's chops away from home. This Saturday's game against Clemson suddenly went from a dicey proposition to damn near impossible. We kicked their cans up and down the hardwood at Cameron, and they'll be pissed. Meanwhile, our confidence is still trickling into a grate in the visitor's locker room in Raleigh. I don't like it.
Tangent: why won't Duke fans ever charge the floor? This has bugged me forever. Any time someone beats us on the road, their fans charge the floor. Always. Look at our losses this year: Wisconsin charged. Tech charged. State charged. The stupid explanation I always hear from Duke fans and the 'establishment' is that we should act like we've been there before.
Sucks to that, I say! I'm not advocating a floor-charge when we beat the EA Sports All-Stars in the preseason, or even a bad ACC team. But against UNC or Tech or just in a close game? Why not?
We're treated like the 'man' everywhere we go, and I think it's a huge mistake to accept that role. Look at this year's Yankees: yes, they were hated. Yes, they had more money than everyone else. Yes, every loss meant the world to the opposing team and their fans. But the team itself didn't give a shit. They had spirit, they had swagger. If someone got a walk-off hit, they were going to be mobbed and then attacked with cream pie. The team was loose, enthusiastic, and tough. And they won the World Series where the stodgy Yankee clubs of the past decade had failed.
So how about a little free-flowing spirit, Dukies? Not just the players, but the fans. Charge the floor. It's fun. It doesn't mean you've come down to the low level of your peers. In fact, the attitude that you're above them doesn't serve anything. I'm getting sick of the Cameron Crazies (who, let's face it, have lost all their mojo in the past ten years), sick of Duke's entitlement complex, sick of the rigid, restrained comportment of our team and our University.
Get. the. fuck. over. yourselves. Charge the floor. Dance in the stands. Get wild. Get pissed. Win on the road. Stop giving two shits what anyone thinks.
With the rest of Blue Devil nation, I'm staring down the barrel of a gun. We're watching the last ten years play out all over again. It shouldn't happen this year, but it looks like it might. There has to be an attitude adjustment or we're going to wilt as the season goes along and everyone else starts finding their stride. A 14-point loss at NC State, despite the strange stats, is un-fucking-acceptable.
Okay, I'm officially fired up. This is the year. Good things need to happen. After this, we're losing Scheyer and Singler, and it's rebuilding time. Except UNC and everyone else got better recruiting classes, so we have nothing to rebuild with. The ACC is down. The whole country might be down, in fact. The stars are aligning, Coach K, and you need to step up. This year has to be different.
Except it's not. Not yet. I never got to charge the floor at Cameron because apparently Duke is basketball royalty and it's beneath us. But we haven't won a title since 2001. UNC has. They charge the floor. Maryland has. They charge. Et cetera et cetera.
Here's the plan, Duke: you're not better than anyone. That's something you earn, not something you're born into. Here's what everyone really thinks: we're pussies. Sorry for the language, but that's the truth. We're like the effete son of a powerful king who assumes the crown by birth, but is completely incapable of leading. Slowly the kingdom crumbles. If there's an ounce of toughness and character and personality in the entire campus, the entire university, the team itself, rather than just an assortment of talent, please let it show. Remove the giant stick from that clenched spot where the sun's rays never shine, and learn the meaning of play.
That is the one and only solution.