Friday, February 22, 2008

Duke soul searching after losses

After back-to-back losses to Wake Forest and Miami, Duke’s players spent Thursday baring their souls to one another and the coaching staff.

Coaches met individually with players. The players met as a group. Before the team began reviewing film Thursday, coach Mike Krzyzewski explained what he’d concluded after the day of soul searching.

“The last two games we were attacked and pushed back on our heels instead of attacking,” senior team captain DeMarcus Nelson told reporters Friday.

Nelson and freshman reserve guard Nolan Smith agreed that turnovers are one of Duke’s biggest problems. The Blue Devils hadn’t committed more than 20 turnovers in any game this season until Sunday, when they committed 22 at Wake Forest.

On Wednesday, Duke turned it over 23 times at Miami.

“When you don’t attack, you second-guess your passes and second-guess your shots,” Smith said. “If you play a game second-guessing yourself, you’re going to throw the ball away or not shoot with confidence. That leads to missed shots, and things go bad when you’re doing that.”

Playing at home in a nonconference game Saturday against struggling St. John’s (10-15) could help Duke regain that confidence. After that Duke plays three games against ACC foes (Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Virginia) that have a combined 10-23 conference record.

This is a period in the schedule when the Blue Devils could get straightened out in time for a March 8 meeting with North Carolina that could decide the No. 1 seed for the ACC tournament.

“In February, you want to iron out all the things you can get better in and make sure you’re in full stride when March comes,” Nelson said.

For the Blue Devils, that starts with being aggressive on offense and defense and making opponents react to them. – Ken Tysiac