Two teams rolled into Chapel Hill and the Dean Dome Thursday night to play, but only one team came to win. One team hustled, one team lived up to its billing and one team played as a unit. That team was not Duke and that has been the case far too man times this season. Duke is arguably the most talented team in the country but for whatever reason seem to have embraced talent over effort. That lack of drive, that lack of cohesion cost Duke an important road game in the ACC as UNC won on their home floor 82-78. Even with Duke leading for the better part of the first half it was clear that Carolina came to hustle. 2 such occasions occurred the first half off of loose balls – the Carolina kids were quick to the floor, while freshman Trevon Duval sidestepped the opportunity. I’m not picking on Trevon, it’s a team wide issue whereas players are saying the right thing but clearly not embracing those moments. When Coach K mentioned after the loss to St. Johns about “disgusting” and “unacceptable” those were 2 instances or many in this game. There were many other instances and chances for Duke to turn a corner but to UNC’s credit, they gave Duke few chances and the chances that Duke did have – they squandered.
UNC used a huge second half run and staunch defense to not only put Duke on their heels but to knock them out. 8 turnovers, by all accounts, is not a had floor game but when you only manage to turn your opponent over twice it’s a glaring weakness and when 4 of those 8 turnovers is committed by the player you depend on to take care of the ball, well, things are not going to go your way.
Stats of note were 16 rebounds for Marvin Bagley III, not one other player managed more than 5. Bagley also scored 15 points in the matchup while guard Gary Trent scored a team high 16. Alex O’Connell and Marques Bolden were huge off the bench for Duke with O’Connell scoring 11 points on 4-8 shooting and Marques Bolden scoring 8 points and going 4-4 from the floor.
What is clear is that this Duke team is not there yet. Right now its mental. Right now its players more concerned about tweeting a highlight rather than winning a game. Right now it’s players looking for a rebound instead of working for a rebound. It’s players playing soft and succumbing rather than succeeding – that is a choice. Letting another team work harder than you is a death knell and perhaps a team of first round draft picks will figure this out, perhaps they won’t but until they understand nothing is given – it has to be earned and taken, this team will continue to be outworked, outplayed and out done.