DURHAM -- Based on the tenor of Mike Krzyzewski’s press conference after Duke’s uninspiring 83-76 win over St. John’s on Saturday, it seems a safe bet the Blue Devils will feel the reverberations of their lackluster second half for days to come.
While putting this game in perspective, it’s worth remembering this game could have lasting effects for the upcoming weeks. Here are three final thoughts:
1. Is this year’s Duke team wearing Coach K out?
There are a lot of words one could use to describe Krzyzewski’s mood when he talked about Saturday’s game, but the most apt one might be “fatigued.” Krzyzewski almost seemed to be at the end of his rope, saying that he’s tried all the things he can think of to improve the team’s defense and intensity to no avail.
“It’s not resonating with our team,” Krzyzewski said.
It will be interesting to hear how the coaching staff tries to correct the issues.
After a disappointing effort at Temple in early January, Duke had two intense days of practice to try to address their problems. In the midst of Saturday’s dreary second half, Krzyzewski called two timeouts to challenge his players to improve their play.
Even with those and other exhortations from the coaches, Duke hasn’t conquered its self-defeating habits.
Will Saturday’s effort finally be the catalyst? Krzyzewski will hope so. Because he was not a happy man in the game's aftermath.
“I am not pleased with today,” Krzyzewski said. “I am not pleased with today one bit. One bit.”
2. Austin Rivers had a solid game distributing the ball
Austin Rivers is a bit of a polarizing figure, especially when it comes to his ability to distribute the ball – there's little question the Duke freshman sometimes looks for his shot to the detriment of the Blue Devils’ overall offense.
Against St. John’s, Duke had Rivers play at the point in the half-court for prolonged stretches of the second half. During that time, Rivers got to the basket twice for nice driving layups. He also penetrated and kicked the ball out to Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins for wide-open 3-pointers on three other possessions. Curry and Dawkins missed, but Rivers’ decisions were still sound.
There were other times when Rivers didn’t get the ball where it needed to be – apparently, this reporter missed a time where he neglected to find a wide-open Dawkins – but overall, Rivers did good things. His five assists were the most since his second game in college and three more than any other Duke player had against St. John’s.
3. Can Quinn Cook get back to his late December/early January form?
No matter what Rivers does or does not do when he plays the point, Duke will be a stronger team if freshman Quinn Cook can recapture his strong form of three weeks ago.
Knee trouble and an illness have knocked Cook back, but at least Cook played eight minutes against St. John’s after missing Wednesday’s win over Maryland. Cook didn't do a whole lot in those eight minutes, and the last game Cook was really noticeable when he was out on the court was probably when he started against Georgia Tech on Jan. 7.
While Cook isn’t irreplaceable to this Duke team, he is the Blue Devils’ most capable point guard. If can get back up to speed, Duke will be better positioned for the stretch drive.
David Scott has been with the Observer for 28 years and has written about ACC, SEC and other college sports in the Charlotte region. He covers Wake Forest, South Carolina and college soccer for the Observer and (Raleigh) News & Observer.
J.P. Giglio covers the ACC for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1997, and the Observer.
Andrew Carter covers the North Carolina Tar Heels for the Observer and News & Observer.
Laura Keeley covers the Duke Blue Devils for the Observer and News & Observer. Follow her on Twitter.
Chip Alexander covers the Carolina Hurricanes and college football for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1979, and the Observer.
Luke DeCock has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist for the Observer and News & Observer in August 2008.
Tim Crothers is an author and former senior writer at Sports Illustrated who is joining the sports staff to write a regular column during the rest of the college basketball season.