Duke Now

Duke falls five spots in latest AP Poll after St. John’s upset

What happened to Duke? Grayson Allen talks about what went wrong in loss to St. John's.

Duke guard Grayson Allen describes what went wrong for the Blue Devils early in the upset at the hands of St. John's.
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Duke guard Grayson Allen describes what went wrong for the Blue Devils early in the upset at the hands of St. John's.

Duke has dropped five spots in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, and is now ranked No. 9 in the country.

After beating Notre Dame last week, 88-66, the then No. 4 Blue Devils were upset by St. John’s on Saturday 81-77 at Madison Square Garden.

It was one of Duke’s worst overall performances of the season, and prompted Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to call out his team during the post game press conference, saying nothing the coaching staff told the players seemed to work during the first 32 minutes of the game.

“It was disgusting, really,” Krzyzewski said Saturday.

Duke led St. John’s by seven points at halftime on Saturday. But St. John’s flipped Duke’s lead into an 11-point lead of their own with about eight minutes left in the game. Duke would eventually re-take the lead with 1:34 remaining, but St. John’s Shamorie Ponds, who had 24 of his 33 points in the second half, responded.

After Duke took the lead, Ponds scored the game’s next five points, including a 3-pointer that put St. John’s up 77-73 with 38 seconds left.

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Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, left, talks with Marvin Bagley III (35) and Wendell Carter Jr (34) during the second half of Duke’s loss to St. John’s at Madison Square Gardent on Feb. 3, 2018. Lynne Sladky AP

Defense had been the Achilles heel for Duke early on in the season. A 96-85 defeat to N.C. State on Jan. 6, caused the Blue Devils to say “enough is enough.” They focused primarily on defense in their practices, and looked to be turning a corner. In the seven games since that loss, Duke had kept all of its opponents to 75 points or less.

But communication breakdowns on ball screens, and wide open shots in the zone and the man-to-man defense – which were more common earlier in the season – eventually doomed the Blue Devils.

I don’t think it’s really complicated. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. But we don’t have to dig deep to find out what we need to work on.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski

Turnovers were also a big issue as they have been throughout the season. Duke had 18 turnovers, which was one shy of a season -high.

“Those are the two areas that we have to get better at,” Krzyzewski said on Monday. “And if we’re not, then we’re just going to be a good team. If we want to be a really good team, then we have to improve in all those areas.

“I don’t think it’s really complicated. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. But we don’t have to dig deep to find out what we need to work on.”

No. 9 Duke (19-4, 7-3 ACC) goes on the road to play rival No. 21 North Carolina (17-7, 6-5 ACC) on Thursday at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill. UNC is coming off a 95-65 win over Pitt on Saturday.

“Start getting stops,” Duke senior guard Grayson Allen said of what Duke has to do going forward. “Be a connected team. We were very connected for the last eight minutes. We played really good defense even if it didn’t result in stops. We played extremely good defense with a lot of energy.

“We’ve got to start the game off like that.”

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

AP Top 25 Poll

1. Villanova (22-1)

2. Virginia (22-1)

3. Purdue (23-2)

4. Michigan State (22-3)

5. Xavier (21-3)

6. Cincinati (21-2)

7. Texas Tech (19-4)

8. Auburn (21-2)

9. Duke (19-4)

10. Kanasas (18-5)

11. Saint Mary’s (23-2)

12. Gonzaga (21-4)

13. Arizona (19-5)

14. Ohio State (20-5)

15. Tennessee (17-5)

16. Clemson (19-4)

17. Oklahoma (16-6)

18. Rhode Island (19-3)

19. West Virginia (17-6)

20. Michigan (19-6)

21. UNC (17-7)

22. Witchita State (17-5)

23. Nevada (20-4)

24. Kentucky (17-6)

25. Miami (17-5)

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