Coach K on Duke's narrow win over Vermont: 'We were awful'

By Matt Norlander | Staff Writer

Mike Krzyzewski said his team was
Mike Krzyzewski said his team was "awful" in its win over Vermont on Sunday. (USATSI)

College basketball came exceptionally close to a monumental upset Sunday night, what would've been the biggest of the season -- at any point -- if it had gone down.

A 1-4 Vermont Catamounts team walked into Cameron and just didn't give a damn. UVM took it to Duke, held a lead late into the second half, and were it not for Candon Rusin's brain cramp -- he failed to get the game-winner off in time, clearly losing track of the clock -- Vermont very well would have knocked of Duke. It would've been the first home loss in non-conference play for the Blue Devils in more than 13 years.

And it was Rusin who hit a 3, and was fouled, to tie the game with 13 seconds to go. Rodney Hood drew contact on the ensuing play, made one of two fouls shots. There was genuine drama and doubt in Durham on Sunday night.

The whole thing has Mike Krzyzewski pretty ticked off, as you'd expect. Vermont was a scorching 65 percent from the floor, which is basically what a team like Vermont needs to do in order to maybe steal a victory in Cameron. UVM coach John Becker said afterward the team "didn't really run any plays." Incredible.

"We played like a team that thought we would just show up and win," Krzyzewski said. "That's how you get beat."

Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer shines further light.

“This was an unacceptable performance,” a somber Mike Krzyzewski said. “We were lucky to win.”

Rodney Hood took it one step further.

“To me, it feels like a loss,” he said.

Most upsetting to Krzyzewski was the fact that his team didn't respect the Catamounts (1-5) or the game, thinking they could just show up and win. That's something he has rarely felt about any of his Duke teams, but that's how he felt tonight about his No. 6 Blue Devils (5-1)

“You're going to have questions, and you're going to pick different parts of the game, and I'm going to just tell you we were awful,” he said. “And you're going to say, what are we going to do to correct that, and I'm going to say, we're going to try not to be awful.”

We're not anywhere near panic time with Duke, but let's also note how this team only managed an 83-74 home win over East Carolina a few days before, and that game was closer than the final score indicates. Right now, Duke is No. 28 in KenPom.com, a good 20 spots lower than I thought it would be before checking the rankings this morning. There is a dichotomy there, considering the Blue Devils will almost certainly remain top five in both polls when those are released later today.

Where's the truth with Duke? Probably something closer to the voters' minds, but maybe not. The team is awesome -- on one end of the floor. That can't cut it over the long haul.

The defense is a huge issue. UVM, which is a solid big-man team but nothing amazing, scored more than half of its points from inside 10 feet. The Blue Devils are not stopping people yet, falling in the bottom half of the nation in points per possession allowed, and giving up 74 points per game. There aren't too many Vermonts left on the schedule. Soon enough, we'll know if Duke is elite, or just a really good team with a really big flaw.

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