Coach K says his brother's recent death is reason for Duke's struggles

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Virginia's Anthony Gill shoots against Duke's Josh Hairston, left, and Marshall Plumlee.  (USATSI)
Virginia's Anthony Gill shoots against Duke's Josh Hairston, left, and Marshall Plumlee. (USATSI)

It was looking really nice for Duke for most of the game, but then the shots finally started falling for Virginia.

Then the Cavs' 13-1 run happened.

Then Virginia took the lead with 36 seconds to go.

Ultimately, Duke was Duke and got Duke-esque bounces in order to stave off its third loss in four games and dodge its worst start in ACC play in 18 years. A 3-pointer from the corner by sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon with 18.8 left bounced off the far side of the rim, bopped all the way above the top of the backboard, then fell true for the Blue Devils. I'd call it unreal, but this is Cameron Indoor, after all. Take a look.

Sulaimon had a game-high 21 points. Duke was able to seal the game thanks to a brain-lock play by Virginia that led to a turnover ... then saw Amile Jefferson, a 41-percent foul shooter, sink both of his free throws with 6.8. Game over; Virgina drops its 16th straight contest at Cameron.

If Duke would've lost, rest assured college basketball would've had a national crisis on its hands. But it didn't, and afterward Mike Krzyzewski was very forthcoming in delivering the blame for the team's recent sour stretch of play. He accused himself, and his reasoning was uncommon.

"I've had to get more observant with my team," Krzyzewski said. "I take responsibility, full responsibility, for those first three games."

Krzyzewski's brother, William, died on Dec. 26. Since then, Duke has gone 4-2 and in general looked like a different team from the group that got to 9-2 just before Christmas. Krzyzewski said his brother's death had affected him greatly. Affected the way he was running the program.

"I got knocked back right after Christmas. And I've been knocked back for a few weeks," Krzyzewski told the media after Monday night's win. "It's on me, not on my team. ... We were collectively together tonight for the first time in a couple of weeks. It was my responsibility that we weren't."

Krzyzewski said what the team's been doing in the past two weeks, how it's been playing and struggling with opponents -- all of that is in the past and should have no impact on what the group will do going forward.

"So what we have been doing, to me, doesn't make a damn bit of difference," he said. "What we will be doing, that will be on all of us. .... The head coach is going to do a better job. We did a better job tonight. I can do better. I can do better for my team."

It's an interesting twist on the talk surrounding this talented-but-hindered Duke team, a club with some softness in the center on defense. Krzyzewski isn't one to take all the blame when his team isn't playing well (and he didn't when the team struggled some earlier in the season), so this is certainly a definitive point of change for the program. Will Duke be different going forward? That's going to be something to track, because the team doesn't look like it's one of the three best programs in the conference as of now.

And as a side note, you know who wasn't consistently on the court -- again -- in the closing moments? One Jabari Parker. He subbed in and out of the game (perhaps for defensive purposes). Will his role in late-game situations eventually change? That could have as much impact on Duke's success as any other individual factor.

GIF via SB Nation.

 
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