Duke went from the No. 1 team in the country to national punchline on Tuesday night, losing to Stephen F. Austin at home and snapping a 150-game winning streak over non-conference foes at Cameron.
The overtime loss to Stephen F. Austin, was the first loss at home to a non-conference foe since February 26, 2000. Freshmen Matthew Hurt, Wendell Moore and Vernon Carey and sophomore Joey Baker weren’t born yet.
Duke got back on the winning side of the ledger with an 83-70 win over Winthrop on Friday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but it wasn’t without its tight moments for the Blue Devil players.
Duke hadn’t lost back-to-back home nonconference games since 1943, but Winthrop put a scare into the Blue Devils. There were 10 lead changes and seven ties in the first half, and Winthrop cut Duke’s lead to four points in the second half.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski blamed a loss of confidence following the upset for Duke’s struggles.
“I know those kids felt horribly, felt guilty and you can lose a lot of confidence when you don’t already have confidence,” he said.
In the first half, Krzyzewski saw that the blow to their confidence was hurting the players’ performance on offense, as the team put too much pressure on itself.
During a timeout, he told them, “Look, we’re squeezing the ball. You guys are putting the weight of the world on yourselves. Just shoot free.”
Sophomore Joey Baker took the advice to heart, shooting a transition three pointer on the next possession.
“I said ‘Maybe not that much confidence,’” Krzyzewski joked, “and boom, it went in.”
Baker went on to hit four of five three pointers and score 16 points. Freshman Matthew Hurt added 20 points and eight rebounds, while Vernon Carey had a double double, with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The relief from getting the win was blunted somewhat by the fact that Cassius Stanley, Duke’s third-leading scorer, went down with an injury early in the second half. After first thinking it might be a knee problem, doctors decided it was a hamstring injury which is expected to keep him out through Christmas.