When asked Saturday what his coach told the team after its 96-80 win over South Dakota, Duke freshman point guard Trevon Duval chuckled.
“That we played terrible in the second half,” Duval said.
That was the “PG (parental guidance)” version of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s comments to the team, he said. But Duval said the team knows it should have closed the game better after a dominant performance in the first half that saw nearly everything go right.
No. 1 Duke gave up 50 points in the second half and was outscored by 10 points (50-40). It was the first time all season, the Blue Devils have been outscored in the second half of a game. Prior to Saturday’s game, Duke (10-0) had outscored its opponents in the second half by an average of 10.2 points per game.
“We didn’t have energy,” Duke freshman forward Marvin Bagley III said. “We were playing, but we weren’t talking as much as we were in the first half. And that kind of hurt us. They got 3s off. They got in the paint. They started hitting layups and started getting the shots they wanted to get, instead of us putting them out of their spots and making them shoot the shots they don’t want to shoot.”
South Dakota shot 50 percent from the floor in the second half, and 54 percent from behind the 3-point line (7-for-13).
For most of the season, it had been Duke’s slow starts that had been a cause for concern. In three games this season it has trailed late in games, particularly because of its defense.
So the Blue Devils focused on that in practice on Friday. And it worked for the majority of the first half. It showed on the scoreboard too. Duke led 56-30 at halftime and was dominating in nearly ever statistical category.
But late in the first half, Duke turned the ball over twice and began to look sloppy. Turns out, it was a preview of what was to come in the second. Duke turned the ball over 14 times in the second half and 19 times total, which was a season-high.
“A full 40 minutes is our goal,” senior guard Grayson Allen said. “We’ve got to get a good game together for 40 minutes.
“We can’t give up 50 points like that. So for us, we have to be mentally tough enough to stay in the game.”
Still the overall feel in the locker room and with Krzyzewski was that there wasn’t much to worry about. Krzyzewski said part of the reason the team didn’t play well in the second half, was because of the all the substitutions he made. He said the other part was that South Dakota never gave up.
He said he learned a lot from his team. For one, Bagley and Allen, are two of the most “exceptional players” in the country. He said Duval has been “really good” at point guard. Wendell Carter Jr., he said, must stay out of foul trouble or it will impact his game. And freshman guard Gary Trent Jr., can be affected by an off-shooting night.
But the team is still undefeated.
“Overall, we’re 10-0, and with this schedule, it’s been really good,” Krzyzewski said. “Can it be better? Yeah. Can it be worse? Hell yes. It can be a lot worse.”