Duke looks to establish pattern of playing intensity against Pack
Playing with extra helpings of passion and emotion can be easy following a humiliating loss.
The challenge No. 23 Duke now faces is bringing that heightened level of play into a game when it has had four days to feel good about a win.
“Our level of intensity was high,” Duke sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon said. “Our attention to detail was high. Basically, that’s the way we have to play every game.”
After disposing of Virginia 69-65 Monday night to ease the sting of last Saturday’s 72-59 loss at Clemson, the Blue Devils welcome Triangle ACC rival N.C. State to Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday, Jan. 18 (2 p.m., WRAL).
The Blue Devils (13-4, 2-2 ACC) upped their intensity and collective play to beat the Cavaliers, knocking Virginia out of a tie for the top spot in the ACC. The task now is to carry that style of play over when facing the up-and-down Wolfpack (11-6, 1-3).
“We just have to keep that same chip on our shoulders,” Sulaimon said. “We got a little bit too comfortable. Our backs were against the ropes on Monday and that’s why we played with the type of intensity and fire that we did. Now we know that any given night we can lose and drop the ball. We have to keep that chip on our shoulders and play with that same level of intensity each and every game no matter who the opponent it.”
Duke point guard Quinn Cook is confident the team won’t take a mental step backward today and ruin its good work from Monday night.
He said its time for the players to take charge of keeping their mental edge.
“I think our mentality is good,” Cook said. “We’re tired of coach yelling at us about energy and fight. Coaches should be coaching us basketball. I don’t think they should be coaching us attitudes and fight. I think everybody’s attitude is great. Monday was a big step and we’ve got another big one tomorrow.”
Though off to a slow start in ACC play, N.C. State presents issues for Duke to handle. The Wolfpack have the ACC’s leading scorer in Durham’s T.J. Warren, a 6-8 sophomore from Durham who averages 22.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
N.C. State’s front line also includes 6-9 freshman Kyle Washington and 7-1 redshirt senior Jordan Vandenberg.
In Duke’s ACC losses to Notre Dame and Clemson, interior players have exploited the fact that Duke uses 6-8 Jabari Parker and 6-9 Amile Jefferson in the post.
In Notre Dame’s 79-77 in on Jan. 4, the Irish won the rebounding battle 39-30 as 6-11 senior center Garrick Sherman had 14 points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes.
Clemson’s 13-point win a week ago included the Tigers dominating the rebounding 48-30 over Duke. Three Clemson players, 6-6 K.J. McDaniels, 6-7 Jaron Blossomgame and 6-10 Landry Nnoko, reached double figures in scoring and rebounding.
Though the Wolfpack also has a big frontline, Parker said he thinks if Duke plays well his team will be good enough.
“You look at their roster, we don’t really see a big impact,” Parker said. “More importantly, (our) bigs just need to show up.”
Cook is stressing the importance of the team keeping a strong edge. In between the Notre Dame and Clemson losses, Duke easily beat Georgia Tech 79-57 at home. While some observers thought that win showed Duke was in a good place, Cook said the opposite was true.
“When we beat Georgia Tech I thought we relaxed,” Cook said. “We went to Clemson and took a game off — no disrespect to Clemson. They beat us. They wanted it more that day. But we weren’t there. We have to keep pushing, keep pushing, keep moving forward.”
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the Virginia game that he didn’t want this year’s team to worry about being compared to past Duke teams.
“We just have to run our own race,” Krzyzewski said. “Whatever is said about us, is said about us. Win or lose. We’re in the top 10, we’re not in the top 10, we’re this, we’re that. I have a good basketball team and my kids played their hearts out tonight. We’re just going to keep moving on.”
Still Sulaimon said the drive to keep Duke at the top of the ACC is motivation.
“We have just got to get a win,” Sulaimon said. “(Saturday’s) game is a must-win as well. We are 2-2 in conference. That’s mediocre and we are a program that’s not built on mediocrity. So we have to start stringing wins together. It starts with (N.C. State).”