In a postgame radio interview immediately after the overtime loss to Syracuse, Rasheed Sulaimon started to look ahead.
This one is going to be hard to swallow, but at the same time, we have to bounce back, he said. Weve got another one on Tuesday. We have three losses now in the ACC. We cant drop any bunnies. The next game that we have, it might be like a trap game.
Wake Forest (14-8, 4-5 ACC) awaits Tuesday, in a 9 p.m. tip at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Deacons are coming off a bad home loss to a struggling, shorthanded Georgia Tech, and their starting shooting guard, Codi Miller-McIntyre, will be a game-time decision with an ankle injury that caused him to miss the second half against the Yellow Jackets.
But what could cause this to be a trap game for Duke has less to do with the opponent and more to do with the Blue Devils mental state after Saturdays thriller.
The thing that I worry most about is how emotionally draining it is, and the fact you, no matter what, whether youve won or lost, you can stay there, emotionally, because it was such an incredible experience, one way or another, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. Weve got to get over that, and thats what were trying to get over in our preparation for Wake.
There are several lessons the Blue Devils hope to take from the loss. Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson talked about the need to go to the basket stronger, on offense and defense. Jefferson and Parker had four fouls each midway through the second half and both had fouled out before the overtime period began. Jefferson, who was effective in the high post, finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists and one steal (against one turnover) in 28 minutes. Parker posted 15 points and nine rebounds, with two steals, one assist and three turnovers in 26 minutes. The Orange finished with nine blocks, six from center Rakeem Christmas alone.
There were plays that could have gone either way. I just had to go up stronger, Parker said. But now seeing and now experiencing it, I can do a better job.
Another new development that emerged Saturday was the use of the 6-foot-4 Sulaimon as a point guard, which Duke did for several critical stretches. On Monday, Krzyzewski called Sulaimon a combo guard (despite this being his first point guard experience during meaningful minutes of the game) and said that look, with Sulaimon at the point, would continue.
He actually puts the best pressure on the ball of anybody we have on the team, because hes taller, and hes a really good athlete, Krzyzewski. He played like a combo in high school. Again, well do that. Well keep looking at that because he is playing well, and, again, the pressure on the ball that hes been able to put up. That helps.
Duke will face two opponents this week, in Wake Forest and Boston College, with losing records in ACC play. Beyond that lurks another emotional week, with the first matchup against North Carolina and Marylands final trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium as a conference opponent.
Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley