basketball Edit

Duke' consecutive non-conference home win streak snapped at 150

Duke turned the ball over 22 times in its upset loss to Stephen F. Austin.
Duke turned the ball over 22 times in its upset loss to Stephen F. Austin. (Associated Press)

DURHAM, N.C. — Stephen F. Austin’s confidence grew rapidly in the first half, to the point that Duke, not the visitors, looked to be the overmatched team.

That trend continued into the second half and overtime, where SFA outscored Duke 45-38, and ultimately pulled off a colossal 85-83 upset, ending Duke’s streak of 150 non-conference victories at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The consecutive win mark dated back to Feb. 26, 2000, when St. John’s came into Durham and knocked off the Blue Devils.

Since then, Mike Krzyzewski’s squad has handled business in Durham. Tuesday night, however, the Lumberjacks showed zero fear from the moment they stepped on Coach K Court.

“They were tougher than we were,” Krzyzewski said. “They played with great poise, and we helped them. We can’t give up 64 points in the paint - we don’t even give up 64 points. We gave up so many layups. We go 11-of-24 from the foul line in the second half. It’s just a recipe to lose. That team was deserving to win.”

This was never more the case than in the overtime period. Duke showed no more signs of being the superior team in those final five minutes than it had in the final 20 of regulation. Just six total points were scored in overtime, only two of those coming from Duke.

Duke was 1-of-4 from the field in the period and turned the ball over six times, including Matthew Hurt’s second of the game with only four seconds left, which led to the Nathan Bain runout and layup at the buzzer to give SFA the victory.

Vernon Carey, Jr., who played well in part, and not-so-good in part, pointed to effort.

“No one on our team got back on defense when it happened,” Carey said of the final play. “I think it happened like four times in the second half. I feel like it was just bound to happen, really.”

The big man scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked seven shots, but he also gave up numerous easy looks at the rim and failed to blockout the backside. He wasn’t alone in that fact, though.

Hurt, who like Carey, had a solid game offensively, was suspect on defense. The freshman seemed afraid of contact at times, and late to the ball in other instances. Before turning the ball over the SFA game winner, Hurt had perhaps his only strong defensive play of the game, and it could’ve won it for the Blue Devils. The freshman blocked Cameron Johnson’s layup with 42 seconds remaining.

Jack White rebounded the block, and Duke had possession with the game tied at 83.

But again, points in the paint ended Duke’s run of non-conference victories.

“I just feel like we didn’t attack them on defense at all,” White said. “I feel like they did the exact opposite to us. You saw that in our turnovers and how they got out in transition. They were just uncontested. I don’t feel like we played our defense at all tonight or that we were ourselves at all.”

Duke led by as many as 15 points in the first half, 33-18 with 9:03 to go. At that point, it seemed inevitable the Blue Devils would go on one of their classic runs and separate themselves from the Lumberjacks.

Instead, Duke got comfortable. It almost seemed as if the Blue Devils felt they had the game wrapped up.

Stephen F. Austin had other plans, though. The visitors started chipping away at the lead and eventually climbed to within three points before Tre Jones hit two free throws to put Duke up by five going into the break.

Though Duke let SFA back in the game, there was a feeling the Blue Devils would come out of the half and extend the lead again. For a moment, it looked as if that would come to be, as Tre Jones stole the opening inbound pass and attacked the rim. He drew a foul, but made just one of two free throw attempts.

That was the storyline all night, as well. Duke could not connect on free throws for the life of them, making just 24-of-40 tries.

Duke did lead for most of the game - up until the 8:09 mark of the second half when SFA took its first lead since the opening minute. After Duke failed to deliver a knockout punch in the early stages of the second half, the feeling the home team would gain control of the game started to fade. In fact, it felt as though SFA was just waiting for its chance to pounce. And when the visitors got that opportunity, they did exactly that.

Surprisingly, Duke had no answer.

“They just started playing harder,” Jones said. “We let up and didn’t play as hard, and we let them back in the game. When we let them back in the game they gained a bunch of confidence. They were playing with all the confidence. They continued to play hard and they wanted it more.”

The disappointment was evident in the locker room.

But for one player it was pure anger, at his own, and his team’s performance. And he was not shy about expressing those feelings.

“We need to get angry,” White said. “Even when they were throwing punches at us throughout the game, even the play we felt like Tre got elbowed in the face, I don’t feel like we got angry enough for that. We can’t think that’s OK. We need to learn to play angry and not be young, not play young and not go into our shells. We just need to talk, be animated and give each other energy. I think that’s the main thing.”