Maryland at No. 1 Duke 1 p.m., WRAL, WNCT

Not used to losing, Duke doesn't take it well

lkeeley@newsobserver.comJanuary 26, 2013 

Losing at Duke never goes over well.

“Typically after you lose a game at Duke University, it’s kind of like there’s a death in the family,” said Jay Williams, the current ESPN analyst and a former national player of the year at Duke. “Nobody talks, and it’s very quiet because when you lose one game, it’s like you lost the national championship because that’s the way Coach K prepares.”

But the No. 1 Blue Devils didn’t just lose at Miami – they were, to use Mike Krzyzewski’s word, “annihilated.” Miami dominated from start to finish during a 90-63 blowout. It was the worst loss since 2009, when Duke also lost by 27 points at Clemson. And this year’s squad narrowly missed becoming just the third Duke team ever – and first since 1984 – to lose by 30 points.

“Just being around that program and being a past player in that program, I’ve never once seen a team just kind of roll over like that,” Williams said of the game against the Hurricanes. “It just seemed like they conceded, like, yeah, it was over, that’s it. I’ve never seen that before.”

Duke (16-2, 3-2 ACC) has a chance to put that game behind them Saturday, when Maryland (15-4, 3-3) comes to Cameron Indoor Stadium. Moving on from such a big loss, though, is easier said than done.

“Honestly, as a player, sometimes it’s hard to forget about such an embarrassing loss,” said Nolan Smith, who now plays for the Portland Trail Blazers and also was on Duke’s the 2010 National Championship team. “You just want to get through the next 48 hours so then you can forget about it and get on to the next team and start worrying about the next opponent.”

Smith was on the 2009 team that lost 74-47 at Clemson. In that game, Krzyzewski called a timeout in the final minute so his team could listen to the crowd at Littlejohn Coliseum celebrate. Gerald Henderson, currently a Charlotte Bobcats captain, was on that team, too.

“It’s HELL,” Henderson said about the aftermath of a huge loss. “You learn losing is not acceptable, particularly at Duke. You get back and there’s stuff in your lockers. Maybe some stuff thrown out. You might get kicked out of your locker room, practice at 6 in the morning. You never know.

“He (Krzyzewski) sends huge messages. Because that’s just the way things are. They don’t accept losing. So when you lose in that kind of fashion, there are repercussions for it.”

Practices after losses always featured an increase in intensity and in the amount of yelling, Smith said. But he added, it can’t all come from the coaches. Players have to be accountable.

Outside the Duke locker room Wednesday night, Mason Plumlee, one of Duke’s three captains, attempted to explain what must change.

“Everybody has to show up,” he said. “We can’t just have a couple guys showing up. And then tonight, no one shows up. We have to get better. We can’t have a bad practice, we can’t have a bad game. We have to practice better each day, and that will translate if we do that.”

It was clear after the Miami loss that Krzyzewski was not pleased with his team’s effort. After losing at N.C. State in the team’s first game without injured starter Ryan Kelly, Krzyzewski had been positive about the way his team competed. But when asked what disturbed him most from the Miami game, he said “everything.”

“They won, they killed us,” Krzyzewski said Wednesday.

Fire in the belly?

In an interview, Williams was quick to point out that he had never been on a Duke team that lost by nearly 30 points.

“And if I ever were in a game where I was down by that amount, you could be sure that somebody was going to feel my frustration,” he said, adding that he didn’t see that fire in any of the players Wednesday night.

Duke went 95-13 and won the 2001 national championship during Williams’ three-year career. The Blue Devils only lost three games by double figures in that span and none by more than 14 points. Williams, though, remembered a particularly disappointing loss from 2002, when No. 3 Duke lost 87-84 at Virginia.

When the team came back to Cameron, everything from their lockers – dirty and clean clothes, shoes and any type of memorabilia – was in the middle of the floor. Even the nametags off their lockers had been removed.

“He’s like, ‘you guys don’t deserve to have your stuff here,’ ” Williams said of Krzyzewski. “ ‘You guys have to play more cohesively like a team.’ ”

‘Time for someone to step up’

Current Duke players were not available to the media before Saturday’s game against Maryland. Smith said that he had talked to Quinn Cook, whom he refers to as his little brother, on Wednesday night.

“I basically told him that I knew how he felt, I know that is was embarrassing and all that stuff,” Smith said. “That game was what it was, they couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean. Other than that, I told him to move on, keep your head up and continue to have a great season.”

Both Smith and Henderson said that they knew the coaching staff would do everything it could to help the team succeed, with Henderson calling Krzyzewski a basketball “genius.” All three of the former players, including Williams, laughed when recalling what happened after losses.

“He’s always fair, but he’s always pushing you to be better,” Henderson said of Krzyzewski. “If you’re not playing up to what he thinks you can play, he lets you know that and shows you how to get better.’’

And for Duke to get better, someone will have to plug the hole left by Kelly, who is out indefinitely with a right foot injury. Plumlee said that it’s time to stop using that as an excuse. When Kyrie Irving missed most of the 2010-11 season with a toe injury, Smith stepped up and developed into a national player of the year candidate. It’s time for someone this year to elevate the same.

“It’s definitely time for someone else to step up,” Smith said. “They have a lot of talent, and their roles have changed, but all of those guys put a lot of time in the gym for an opportunity like this. You hate to see Ryan go down, but the season doesn’t end, and they have to find a way.”

Charlotte Observer staff writer Rick Bonnell contributed reporting.

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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