Duke Now

As Duke goes from one big stage to another, Krzyzewski hopes players won’t be ‘mind dead’ again

Mind lasers? The Gong Show? Coach K explains Duke’s loss to St. John’s

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski talks about the Blue Devils' and their upcoming game against the Tar Heels and gets creative when asked about their upset loss to St. John's.
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Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski talks about the Blue Devils' and their upcoming game against the Tar Heels and gets creative when asked about their upset loss to St. John's.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he drew up six plays in timeouts during Saturday’s game against St. John’s and when his team came out of each, they didn’t run the plays.

“I don’t know what happened, if someone had a laser from the stands and said, I’m going to make you mind dead or whatever,” Krzyzewski said.

In order for No. 9 Duke to beat No. 21 North Carolina on Thursday in Chapel Hill, the team can’t be “mind dead.”

I don’t know what happened, if someone had a laser from the stands and said, I’m going to make you mind dead or whatever.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski

Krzyzewski said it will be important for his team to play as a team, and not like five individuals. The Blue Devils played like individuals and lost to St. John’s 81-77 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Prior to that win, St. John’s had lost 11 straight.

“The older the team, the less experience you have with those,” Krzyzewski said of “mind lasers.”

“So in other words, how the hell do you concentrate,” he said. “And then can you concentrate together on a big stage against a big opponent.”

For many of Duke’s players, none have played in a rivalry game of this magnitude. Four of Duke’s five starters and primary players are freshmen. Talented, but young and still somewhat inexperienced.

IMG_Duke_St_Johns_Basket_5_1_1JD801K4_L370691494
St. John's Tariq Owens, bottom, passes the ball as Duke's Trevon Duval (1) defends during the first half at Madison Square Garden in New York, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki) Andres Kudacki AP

They’ve never felt the passion that goes into a Duke-Carolina game, and have never heard every single person in a single stadium booing you.

Only senior Grayson Allen has experienced that for Duke.

“We’ve had intense practices and trying to get these guys emotionally ready to be in that type of game,” Allen said. “Because when you’re in that game, playing UNC on their home court, if they start off the game with two big plays, they’re going to be extremely excited and so is the crowd. That can be defeating for guys’ first time being in that environment.”

Sophomore center Marques Bolden said it’s impossible to truly prepare a freshman for this type game.

“We just try to tell them to play their game and not play to the crowd or their environment because we know it’ll be an away game and a hostile environment,” Bolden said. “We just tell them to do what you’ve been doing and play hard.”

Although not the UNC team of the previous two years, UNC is talented and experienced.

We just try to tell them to play their game and not play to the crowd or their environment because we know it’ll be an away game and a hostile environment.

Duke center Marques Bolden

Despite its lack of post players, it is one of the best offensive rebounding teams. The Tar Heels rebound 38.2 percent of their misses, which is third best in the country. They also keep opposing teams off the offensive glass.

Duke is first in the country in offensive rebounds, but has struggled, especially recently, in keeping opponents off the offensive glass. Duke currently ranks No. 194 in defensive rebounding percentage.

Opponents rebound their misses 29.2 percent of the time, which is slightly below the NCAA average, according to kenpom.com, an advanced analytics site.

“When you think of the past you think those big guys rebound and they do,” Krzyzewski said. But this team, their perimeter guys rebound, Pinson is as good as an offensive rebounder as they have. It’s a really good team, which they have a really good team all the time which makes it such a great game.”

During rivalry games, most things go out of the window and anything can happen. Krzyzewski is just hoping his team got the message he tried to send last week. That they’ll have to play hard for a full 40 minutes.

“One of the big things for this game is the stage our guys get to play on,” he said. “The stage our guys got to play on Saturday was a big one. We didn’t do well in that one. Hopefully we’ll do better tomorrow night.”

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

Duke at UNC

When: Thursday 8 p.m.

Where: Smith Center, Chapel Hill

TV: ESPN

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