There might be a curse or some form or voodoo at work, N.C. State’s Scott Wood suggested, against point guards in the Triangle.
There’s no other logical explanation for the chain of injuries to recent star guards at Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State.
Two years ago, a toe injury sidelined Duke’s Kyrie Irving for 26 games and derailed the Blue Devils’ national title hopes. Last year, UNC’s Kendall Marshall broke a bone in his right wrist in the Tar Heels’ first NCAA tournament game and their title hopes perished in the Round of Eight.
N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown sprained his left ankle in the first half of a loss at Virginia on Jan. 29. Brown missed last Saturday’s loss to Miami and, without a major breakthrough, is unlikely to play tonight at Duke.
“Maybe somebody is working voodoo but I cannot confirm or deny that,” Wood joked. “It must be Wake Forest.”
Dealing with injuries has become routine at Duke, where the point-guard voodoo has expanded this season to include forward Ryan Kelly. Kelly is expected to miss his eighth straight game tonight with an injured right foot.
Senior forward Mason Plumlee said dealing with injuries is a part of the season and almost routine at Duke.
“Every season I’ve been here, we’ve had someone go down with an injury,” Plumlee said. “So you almost, I don’t want to say you anticipate it, but those things are going to happen. You have to adjust.”
Duke was 14-0 before Kelly’s injury and is 4-2 since with three straight wins, including a 20-point rout of Maryland and a 19-point blowout at Florida State.
“They are playing awfully well,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “They have figured out how to play differently without Kelly. They’ve adapted and adjusted.”
The question for N.C. State is can it do the same without Brown? Freshman Tyler Lewis was able to step in for Brown, who averaged 14.7 points and 8.7 assists in the seven ACC games before his injury, against Miami. Lewis had 15 points and six assists against the Hurricanes and will likely make his first college start tonight.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said N.C. State was able to make adjustments in the halfcourt without Brown but the Wolfpack was different in transition. Brown had 13 assists in the Wolfpack’s win over Duke on Jan. 12 and Krzyzewski described Brown’s performance as “magical with the ball.”
“No one gets the ball down the court faster in transition than Brown in college basketball,” Krzyzewski said. “And so, right away, as good as your transition is, it’s going to be a little bit slower and not as creative.”
Krzyzewski said he was impressed with how N.C. State played without Brown against Miami.
“Their kids stepped up and put themselves in a position to win, and that says a lot about the character they have on that team,” Krzyzewski said.
Still, the Miami loss leaves N.C. State, the preseason ACC favorite, at 5-4 in the league and four games behind first-place Miami.
Three of the Wolfpack’s four losses have been on the road and all four have been by a total of seven points. How N.C. State has lost – twice on a tip-in in the last second – does not change the bottom line, Gottfried said.
“The facts are the facts,” Gottfried said. “We live in a real world and the world is that we’re 5-4. It’s not where we wanted to be, it’s not probably where we thought we would be.
“The reality is we’re 5-4 and we’ve got a ways to go. We have to live in the real world, so we’ll see.”
Laura Keeley contributed to this report.