Blue Devils learn tough lessons in UNC loss

Team will need to refocus for NCAA run

Mar 9, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Marvin Bagley III (35) shoots against North Carolina Tar Heels forward Sterling Manley (21) and forward Theo Pinson (1) and forward Brandon Huffman (42) and guard Kenny Williams (24) during the first half of a semifinals game of the 2018 ACC tournament at Barclays Center at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN — Duke learned some hard, painful lessons on the hard streets of Brooklyn on Friday.

The Blue Devils lost to North Carolina 74-69 in the ACC Semifinals and will go back to Durham to await word on their NCAA future.

In the meantime, Duke will have to ponder how the Tar Heels jumped out to a 16-3 lead, then pulled away again in the second half, when the game was there to be won by either side.

“It’s just a learning experience,” Wendell Carter Jr. said. The big man fell just shy of a double-double, scoring 14 points and pulling down nine rebounds on a balky ankle. The Blue Devils also had point guard Trevon Duval go down with an ankle injury early in the game. X-rays were negative, and he returned a short time later.

The physical pain was dwarfed by the anguish of losing to the Tar Heels, however.

“I thought we could have beaten them,” Marvin Bagley III said. “They’re a great team. They played a good game, but if we play how we play, we beat that team.”

Bagley scored 19 points, giving him 52 in the two ACC Tournament games, breaking a team record that had stood for 62 years. He added 13 rebounds.

“It hurts to lose any game,” he said, “but to lose to that team is not cool.”

The Blue Devils were disappointed in their lackluster start.

“We came out flat,” Bagley said. “We just didn’t have the energy. We’ve got to be able to have it, to have that same fight we had at the end of the game. Some days, it’s just like that. You come out slow and sluggish. You’ve got to learn to fight through that.”

While the players seethed, coach Mike Krzyzewski was pleased with what he saw from his team in Brooklyn.

“We played an old, desperate team in Notre Dame,” Krzyzewski said. “And we played a tough team tonight. We’re disappointed we didn’t win, but we’re more ready for the NCAA Tournament than we were a month ago.”

The young players, who had their first ACC Tourney experience, will now get ready for the one-and-done of March Madness.

“It was good that we got to play in the second game, with 20 minutes to warm up, instead of the normal routine,” Krzyzewski said. “You get that in the NCAAs. You might be the first game. You might be the second. You might play at 9:30, 9:45. You’ve got to be ready.”

The loss, as tough as it was to swallow, should help refocus the Blue Devils.

“This will be a good time for us to practice and get our minds right,” Bagley said, “for this last go-round. This next tournament is the last thing. We’ve got to lock in and focus, play with a chip on our shoulders, because we definitely don’t want it to end like this. We’ve got to play every single game like it could be our last, because now, it could be.”