Monday, February 9, 2009

Duke answers challenge

One of the most popular topics of speculation after Duke’s 74-47 loss at Clemson on Wednesday was how coach Mike Krzyzewski would punish the Blue Devils after the team’s most lopsided loss in 19 years.

Would he take the rims off the baskets and run them until they couldn’t run anymore? Would he take the name plates off their lockers and their photos off the walls at Cameron Indoor Stadium? Perhaps he would send them on a secret CIA aircraft to a third world country for “interrogation” on why they collapsed against Clemson’s press and couldn’t stop Trevor Booker?



And no.

After Duke came back to win 78-75 in overtime on Saturday against Miami, Duke senior forward Dave McClure explained that exhausting the players in practice wasn’t an option.

“We knew Miami was a great team,” McClure said. “They had just played an unbelievable game against Wake. And I don’t think it would have been productive if we had just completely killed ourselves in the last two days. We needed to get a point across, and definitely change something, but we couldn’t just beat the (heck) out of each other.”

Krzyzewski didn’t need to take name plates off the lockers to challenge the players, because they already were challenging one another.

“We definitely had some intense meetings where we called each other out,” McClure said. “We pointed the finger at each other. Because I think that’s something we needed to do. We needed to hold each other accountable. And as much as that’s something that people don’t always want to hear, I think we accepted it.”

It’s difficult to tell whether those methods turned the team around enough to keep Duke (20-3, 7-2 ACC) atop the ACC after Wednesday night’s home game against North Carolina (21-2, 7-2), which is tied for first place with the Blue Devils.

But the strategy helped Duke get a badly needed win over Miami, and that was a step in the right direction.

“The practices were definitely intense,” McClure said, “but they were more about us getting back to what we did to get to where we were (before), rather than looking solely at Miami. So we concentrated more on ourselves than we did on just Miami.” – Ken Tysiac