A Puzzling Performance At Clemson

Wednesday night's game against Clemson was scheduled to tip-off around 9:00 PM EST. Apparently someone forgot to notify Mike Krzyzewski's team that their presence would be required as the Blue Devils suffered the program's most embarrassing loss in more than a decade. The question is: how will this team respond?

From the opening tip there was no doubt as to which team was hungrier, more intense, and destined to come away with the victory. The only drama was if the Blue Devils could keep the final margin respectable. They couldn't, and head coach Mike Krzyzewski was left in a silent and obvious rage as he watched his team commit turnover after turnover leading to easy baskets by the hosts.

"We just didn't compete," said Kryzewski. "Clemson out played us for 40 minutes. It was 40 minutes of them dominating. They just kicked our butt. I'm not surprised about anything tonight, Clemson is a great team. We had no chance of winning this game."

While his comments regarding his team's performance are harsh, they are also spot on. It's not that Duke lost, and lost big. That happens to every program at some point - Wake Forest, the nation's former No. 1 team lost by 25 on Wednesday. North Carolina, the national title favorite a season ago, found themselves behind 40-12 in the Final Four. Neither the margin, nor the opponent is cause for concern. Instead the Duke coach recognized the obvious: His team quit before the game was done - a cardinal sin for any Blue Devil player, and something that won't be forgotten.

"Our players shouldn't forget this loss. This is as bad as you can play. You can't say `oh that's okay'. Not if you're wearing a Duke uniform. You have to take responsibility of what you've done."

Which brings Coach K and his team to the season's first real crossroad. It's not like the team is in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. Not with a 19-3 overall record and sitting on top of the conference standings with a 6-2 mark at the halfway point. Still, after starting 18-1 the team has lost two of three - both on the road. Against Wake Forest Duke looked bad early on, but showed a great amount of pride in battling back to the last possession. That didn't happen Wednesday.

Such a stunning performance could put thoughts of earning one of the nation's top four seeds on the back-burner for a while. And, more pressing, is that Duke now must face a Miami team fresh off dismantling Wake Forest. Before they take the court Saturday, it's likely they'll revisit what happened against Clemson. Many times.

"What you do with the responsibility [of such a poor performance] determines where you are," Krzyzewski told the media. "Don't make any excuses."


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