No. 3 Duke can rebound from first loss vs. South Carolina State

NCAA

Duke has had two weeks to sift through the damage from its first loss of the season.

Now the third-ranked Blue Devils are gearing up for three home nonconference games across a five-day stretch.

That begins Tuesday night when South Carolina State visits Durham, N.C.

Quite a bit has changed for Duke (7-1) since it lost Nov. 30 at Ohio State. When the next poll came out, the Blue Devils were stripped of their No. 1 ranking.

“It was a good learning experience for our kids,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

That outcome was the first game for Duke after it toppled then-No. 1 Gonzaga. Collectively, it was a good first month for the Blue Devils, their coach said.

“We put together a very ambitious schedule,” Krzyzewski said. “We have a young team. Those guys are real good, but they’re young and they have not gone through anything like this, so it’s a period of time — I call it an energy cycle. The season has different energy cycles.”

Since the 71-66 road loss, there has been time to assess what went wrong going into the next phase of the season.

“We’ve learned a lot about our team,” Duke assistant coach Nolan Smith said. “There was very good moments in these first eight games. First thing for us is how competitive our team was in these games. We’re very competitive and very together, especially on the defensive end of the court.”

From the Ohio State game, Smith said the Blue Devils should be able to improve ball movement offensively.

“I feel like we’re in a good place but know that we can get into a much better place offensively,” Smith said. “We are using this time right now during exams to really focus on our offense and focus on scoring together more and movement and different things like that on the offensive end of the court. We’re using this time wisely.”

Duke’s Wendell Moore Jr. had three consecutive games with 20 or more points until the Ohio State game. Still, he was the team’s top scorer with 17 points that night. Moore and Paolo Banchero are tied for the team lead in scoring at 17.8 points per game.

South Carolina State (3-7) has tripled last year’s win total following a 1-17 season.

The Bulldogs are coming off Friday’s 67-66 neutral-site victory against High Point to win their second consecutive game. The triumph against South Florida also came by one point.

First-year coach Tony Madlock has visions of championships. While Duke aims to be a contender for the national title, it’s smaller strides for South Carolina State at this stage. The goal is preparing for Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference competition.

“This is my team. This is my program,” Madlock said. “I think this university has a lot of potential. We’re going to find a way to win championships.’

South Carolina State has lost just twice by more than a dozen points. This will be its first game against a nationally ranked opponent this season.

Cameron Jones is the lone Bulldog with a double-figure scoring average, coming in at 11.5 points

–Field Level Media

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