College Basketball: Duke still stewing over loss

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 15, 2008

Associated PressDURHAM ó Jon Scheyer needed stitches to close another nasty cut beneath his left eye. His Duke teammates are also once again trying to erase a different kind of scar.
This feeling of disappointment has become all too familiar recently for the Blue Devils, who spent their past two offseasons dwelling on earlier-than-expected NCAA tournament losses.
After spending finals week stewing over their loss at Michigan, No. 6 Duke insists it’s eager to return the court in search of redemption following an 11-day stretch between games.
“We have to remember the next time we go on the court ó even though it’s two weeks or whatever ó our last game was a loss,” Scheyer said Monday. “We’re always going to play so hard, but we should play our hardest and most motivated. We need to win. We came off a game when we lost, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Entering Wednesday night’s game against UNC Asheville, the Blue Devils (8-1) all but promised a return to the brand of basketball ó marked by a sharp-shooting perimeter touch and an aggressive, get-to-the-line approach in transition ó that helped them win their first eight games. They were just 7-for-33 from 3-point range and managed just six free throws in that 81-73 loss in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“The worst part for me is not being able to redeem ourselves immediately,” center Brian Zoubek said. “Not being able to come out and just kill a team right afterwards to erase as much as possible, at least in our heads, and our confidence. You lose like that, and you have two weeks of practice, it really wears on your emotions, because you just want to get out there and play a game.
Instead, the day after that defeat, Duke’s coaches brought everyone in for a 2-hour meeting to “look at ourselves in the mirror,” guard Nolan Smith said.
The program has “standards that we have to live up to every single game,” Smith said. “We can’t take days off. We’ve learned a lot the past week without playing.”
Then again, a similar sentiment was expressed after each of Duke’s appearances in the NCAA tournament ended during the opening weekend. A first-round loss to Virginia Commonwealth in 2007 followed by last year’s second-round exit against West Virginia.
One of those losses quite literally scarred Scheyer, who picked up a lasting abrasion beneath his left eye in the loss to VCU. The Duke guard is scarred again in the same spot, this time when teammate Elliot Williams went up for a layup in practice and elbowed him, requiring four stitches to sew up the gash.
“Guys have said I look a lot tougher now,” Scheyer deadpanned. “I think opponents are really going to be intimidated.”
All kidding aside, Scheyer said nothing will intimidate an opponent quite like getting back to the qualities that led to Duke’s fast start.
“We didn’t play with the same hunger, the same toughness,” Scheyer said. “I think we have a lot of growing to do. That game at Michigan just showed that if we don’t have an edge in every game, we can lose. We can be a really tough team, a team that can beat anybody. But we also have to bring that edge, that toughness, that hunger, for every game.”