A short-handed roster finally took its toll on Duke at the end of a taxing four-game stretch.
With two key players having a chance to heal up, the 15th-ranked Blue Devils should be in better shape for Thursday night’s home game against fading Florida State.
Down to six healthy scholarship players, Duke (20-7, 9-5 ACC) couldn’t hold on to a 12-point lead during what coach Mike Krzyzewski called the most physical second half of the season in Saturday’s 71-64 loss at then-No. 18 Louisville. Already minus Matt Jones due to a sprained ankle, the Blue Devils lost another starter when freshman guard Derryck Thornton hurt his shoulder with around nine minutes remaining.
Thornton did return to the game with 3:55 left, likely due to leading scorer Grayson Allen fouling out. Allen was the only Duke player to score in double figures with 29 points.
Krzyzewski said Monday that he expects both Jones and Thornton to play in Thursday’s bounce-back opportunity. The Blue Devils entered Saturday having won five straight overall and three in a row over ranked ACC foes, a streak capped by last Wednesday’s 74-73 come-from-behind win at then-No. 5 North Carolina.
Jones, Duke’s best ball-handler, was especially missed during a game in which the Blue Devils committed a season-high 18 turnovers that led to 19 Louisville points. Eight came during the final 10 minutes as the Cardinals rallied from a 50-38 deficit with 12:26 left.
”They were unbelievable in how they were warriors, but the limits were stretched (Saturday),” Krzyzewski said.
Brandon Ingram had 10 of those turnovers while being held to eight points, his lowest output since Nov. 29. The star freshman had combined for 45 points in back-to-back wins over the Tar Heels and current No. 3 Virginia.
Florida State (16-11, 6-9) also had one get away Saturday, blowing a 10-point second-half lead in an 83-73 loss at Virginia Tech. The Hokies shot 60.9 percent in amassing 46 points after intermission to deal the Seminoles a fourth straight defeat, marking their longest losing streak since a five-game skid in February 2007.
“I thought we played some pretty good basketball for about 34 minutes, but unfortunately the game is 40 minutes,” coach Leonard Hamilton said. “I thought we lost our composure when they started mounting a charge.”
Ineffective defense has been a troubling constant during the Seminoles’ skid, letting opponents average 80.3 points and shoot 51.4 percent with a 45.7 percent mark from 3-point range. Virginia Tech finished 11 of 19 from beyond the arc.
A quick improvement will be needed to avoid a fourth straight loss in this series. Duke leads the ACC with 9.3 made 3s per game in conference play and has hit 43.6 percent over its last six. Allen is 21 of 40 while averaging 23.3 points over that span.
Florida State has lost eight straight to Top 25 teams on the road since winning at No. 24 Virginia on March 1, 2012, less than two months after upsetting fourth-ranked Duke 76-73 in Durham.
The recent struggles haven’t affected Hamilton’s job security, as he received a two-year extension through 2018-19 on Wednesday.
“This extension represents our belief that he will put a first class team on the court, and our continuing commitment to that belief,” Florida State president John Thrasher said.