A few leftover notes from Duke’s come-from-ahead 71-64 loss (I’m borrowing that description from you, Yahoo Sports’s Pat Forde):
▪ The best news of the day was that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski expects Matt Jones to be able to play Thursday against Florida State. Jones, who sprained his left ankle last Wednesday at UNC, was a high-level decoy Saturday, warming up before the game after Duke announced Friday he would not play against Louisville. Then just before tipoff, ESPN’s Dick Vitale announced that Jones was available off the bench. In truth, that wasn’t the case, as there were plenty of emergency depth situations in the second half that would have lent themselves to Jones playing if he was able.
“He didn’t have any push, and then you’re worried that something else could happen,” Krzyzewski said. “The progress he has made has been remarkable. When he left the court against Carolina, (his ankle) swelled up so much. First of all, I thought there might be a break. We found out the next day that it wasn’t. For him to even suit up today shows that he’s on a good track.”
▪ Jones’s unavailability meant that Duke had to play Chase Jeter a season-high 17 minutes (this must have delighted the faction of my Twitter followers who think Jeter is the second coming of Jabari Parker). When Derryck Thornton injured his shoulder in a collision with Louisville’s Chinanu Onuaku on a drive with about nine minutes left, Krzyzewski had to play Jeter and Marshall Plumlee at the same time. Duke hasn’t spent much time working with a two-big lineup since Amile Jefferson broke his foot on Dec. 12. And it was during this stretch with the two bigs that the Blue Devils lost the lead they had held for about 33 minutes.
Krzyzewski’s initial assessment of Jeter’s performance: “Fine.”
“We only have so many guys,” Krzyzewski said. “So he did a good job, especially based on the fact that he is only prepared up to a certain level.”
Translation: Jeter is limited on both ends of the floor and allows the other team to have a 5-on-4 advantage while Duke is on offense, but he did what he could.
Duke is hopeful that Thornton will be healthy for Thursday’s game, too.
▪ Brandon Ingram had his worst game of the season. He was 3-for-10 in shooting, with eight points, five rebounds two assists and 10 turnovers, and just looked a step slow physically and like he was on an about three-second delay mentally. That’s about the only explanation for his numerous travels.
One bad performance, though, doesn’t wipe out his recent strong play or his incredibly high potential.
“He was off,” sophomore guard Grayson Allen said. “We were talking to him the whole game. And we know he can bounce back. It’s just a one-game thing. He’s a great player. It’s not anything to worry about.”
Louisville coach Rick Pitino still had plenty of nice things to say about Ingram after the game (his previous performance against the Cardinals in Cameron – 5-for-9 shooting, 18 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three turnovers – obviously helped).
“Ingram reminds me so much of Kevin Durant,” Pitino said. “That’s about as high a compliment he possibly can get. Because even though he is physically thin, he is not weak. Some guys are physically thin, but same thing with (Kevin) Durant. He’s going to get better, and better, and better and better. Beautifully looking stroke, great length, handles it, passes it. He is going to be a great pro.”
The Blue Devils just hope he has a great March first.