June 22, 2024

Exclusive: Duke head coach and captain took it personal, see what they found themselves doing.

Jon Scheyer looked the Cameron Crazies in the eyes, apologized and vowed the Duke Blue Devils will play better in the postseason. Jeremy Roach took personal responsibility. This is what Duke’s coach and team captain found themselves doing late Saturday night following their final home game of the season after rival Jeremy Roach never trailed in defeating the Blue Devils, 84-79.

No. 7 UNC celebrated an ACC regular-season championship, a sweep of the Blue Devils and the ACC Tournament’s top seed. No. 9 Duke (24-7) collected its thoughts and looked for answers as it looked to the ACC Tournament, where it’s seeded No. 2.

“We’ll get this right,” Scheyer told Duke students as stopped to greet the courtside fans during his somber journey to the locker room. What Scheyer didn’t like was how the Blue Devils played disjointed basketball on offense in the game’s early minutes, which led to them allowing UNC enough easy shots to build a 17-4 lead. “They came out and hit us first,” Scheyer said. “And, really, the last nine games we’ve been hitting other people first.”

The Blue Devils had gone 8-1 over those nine games, all of which followed their 93-84 loss at North Carolina on Feb. 3. It looked like they had found the higher gear they’d need to do damage in the postseason. Instead, the Tar Heels (25-6) quickly deflated that bubble by making seven of their first nine shots. Three of them were Cormac Ryan 3-pointers, two of which he shot cleanly, confidently and accurately after the Blue Devils left him wide open.

“You’ve got to not give Ryan two open threes to start the game,” Scheyer said. “That’s what I mean. You would feel pretty good if coming into Cameron it’s just two wide open threes to start off. And that sets the tone for the night.” Roach, meanwhile, suffered through a tough shooting night in what’s expected to be the final home game of his four-year Blue Devils career. He made only 3 of 12 shots while scoring 13 points on a night when Duke’s offense wasn’t its best. “We came out flat, came out settling,” Roach said. “I took a step-back (shot) the first play of the game and that was kind of a snowball effect for the whole thing. We kind of settled and they got out in transition, getting open buckets, easy baskets and the rest is history.”

After starting 4 of 11 from the field, the Blue Devils eventually found some traction on offense. They finished at 43.3% shooting, having climbed to within a point during the second half before eventually losing without ever leading in the game. In two games with UNC this season, Duke led for a grand total of 16 seconds over the 80 minutes of play. That’s part of why Scheyer wanted to apologize to the team’s ardent student supporters.

Jeremy Roach - 2023-24 - Men's Basketball - Duke University

“I just wanted to connect with the students,” Scheyer said. “They’re amazing. They’re incredible.” But, moving forward to the ACC and NCAA tournaments this month, Scheyer and the Blue Devils won’t have that home-court backing. That’s where the season is now, nothing but neutral-court battles with championships on the line. “We’re still one of the best teams in the country,” Duke 7-foot sophomore Kyle Filipowski said. “Our season is not defined by UNC. Obviously, this rivalry means a lot more. But now it’s tournament time, and we’re trying to put ourselves in the best position to succeed.”

 

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