Duke Now

Duke’s Coach K says his players are learning to ‘dance together’

Krzyzewski likes what he sees from his team on defense

The Duke Blue Devils dismantle Pitt with ferocious a defensive effort and four players scoring in double figures in 81-54 victory.
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The Duke Blue Devils dismantle Pitt with ferocious a defensive effort and four players scoring in double figures in 81-54 victory.

Its been more than two weeks since Duke gave up 96 points in a 96-85 loss to N.C. State.

The Blue Devils’ coaching staff wasn’t happy with Duke’s defense. Players were embarrassed. It was Duke’s second loss in three conference games to teams who, according to the numbers, Duke was supposed to beat. And in all three of those games – against Boston College on Dec. 9, Florida State on Dec. 30 and the N.C. State game on Jan. 6 – Duke gave up 89 points or more.

In its four games since that Jan. 6 loss to N.C. State, Duke has not given up more than 75 points in a game. Its opponents have shot fewer than 41 percent.

The Blue Devils also won each of those games – against Pitt, Wake Forest, Miami and Pitt – and are now 5-2 in the ACC, and tied for third in the conference.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said his team has a base now, both offensively and defensively. He said his players have worked on their footwork and communicating with each other on defense.

He equated learning how to play defense to learning how to dance.

“If you would see somebody in a defensive stance, out on the street, you’d cross the street and wouldn’t want to pass that person because they’d be like this,” Krzyzewski said with his hands out demonstrating a defensive stance. “So your body doesn’t just do that. And your body doesn’t move naturally like that. It has to learn how to dance. Just like when you see all these great dancers.

“You all can’t do that. I can’t do that. They can do it.”

A big part of No. 4 Duke’s defensive woes early in ACC play was due to the players’ lack of communication with each other. Krzyzewski said the music in dancing is the talking in basketball.

“And if you can get five guys talking, then maybe you can dance together and maybe you can win,” he said. “It’s really kind of, for me, easy to understand, but it’s not easy to get it done. So our guys are working at it.”

This season, Duke gives up 98.8 points per 100 possessions, which is ranked 80th in the country, according to kenpom.com. So defense is still a work in progress.

On Tuesday, Duke (17-2, 5-2 ACC) plays Wake Forest (8-11, 1-6) on the road.in what will be the second time in 10 days the two teams have played each other. The Blue Devils beat the Demon Deacons 89-71 on Jan. 13, when Duke freshman forward Marvin Bagley III finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds, and freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. was 6-for-7 from behind the 3-point line.

Duke forward Wendell Carter Jr (34) scores to of his game high 21 points as Duke beat Pitt 81-54, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

The Blue Devils also forced the Demon Deacons to shoot 36 percent from the floor.

Wake Forest coach Danny Manning said it helps play the same team more than once in a short span of time, because it allows him to know the other team’s tendencies. But the Demon Deacons, a team that averages 74.5 points per game and gives up 73.2 points per game on defense, will have its hands full.

Manning said all five of Duke’s starters can score from all over the floor.

“Coach K’s teams have always been talented and good, but I think Bagley and Carter give them a different dimension than what they’ve had in the past,” Manning said. “When you have two true big guys that are comfortable down low, but can also step out on the perimeter and make shots.

“And then Grayson (Allen) is shooting the ball at a high clip. (Gary) Trent is shooting at a high clip. He shot it at a high clip against us in the first game and (Trevon) Duval is a one-man fast break.”

Duke senior guard Grayson Allen talks about Duke’s 81-54 win over Pitt on Saturday.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander

No. 4 Duke at Wake Forest

When: 9 p.m., Tuesday

Where: Lawrence Joel Coliseum, Winston-Salem


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