The response to the first loss of the season will be critical for No. 1 Duke, which is bound to lose its top ranking regardless of the result Friday night against visiting Winthrop.
The Blue Devils are trying to shake off the stunning loss Tuesday night to Stephen F. Austin, which delivered an 85-83 overtime decision at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
For Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, the response leading to that game might have been at the root of the Blue Devils’ problem.
“We did not respond well to winning at New York and no matter what we said to our team, my feeling is they thought they were going to win,” Krzyzewski said, referring to the aftermath of a couple of victories last week in a tournament at Madison Square Garden. “I’m not going to say they thought it was going to be easy because nothing is every easy. But they just assume you’re going to win instead of being in a fight to win.”
So now Duke (6-1) has lost, a setback that snapped the team’s streak of 150 consecutive non-league home victories.
Against Winthrop (4-3), they aim to begin another string.
The Blue Devils are aware of the damage done.
“The Duke lineage, they haven’t lost a non-conference game here in 19 years, so for us to be that team kind of stinks,” freshman guard Cassius Stanley said. “Actually, it stinks a lot.”
Stephen F. Austin won on Nathan Bain’s race for a layup at the overtime buzzer. Long gone was Duke’s 15-point first-half lead.
“We were up a bunch and let them back into the game,” Duke guard Tre Jones said. “And they had confidence and were playing hard, playing really tough. We weren’t playing the same way we had been playing all year, with the same toughness and hunger that we’ve had.”
Krzyzewski didn’t want to dwell on the final sequence. He was bothered by much more than that.
“This is not about one play,” he said. This is about how we played, which was not very good.”
Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey, whose team is coming off a 127-83 home victory Monday night against Division III Pfeiffer, has been involved in games at Duke when he was on the Wake Forest coaching staff.
“When you win on the road, especially against an elite team, you’ve got to be on it defensively,” Kelsey said.
The Eagles already have played four road games, winning at then-No. 18 Saint Mary’s in their third game of the season.
“After a win like that, you think about all the people, all the players and coaches who have come before us who have the name on the front of our jerseys — really special,” Kelsey said.
The only previous Winthrop-Duke meeting came in Greenville, S.C., where Duke won an opening game of the 2002 NCAA Tournament. That’s the only time the Eagles have taken on a No. 1-ranked team.
Senior forward Josh Ferguson, with 11.3 points per game, is the only Winthrop probable starter averaging in double figures.
–Field Level Media