DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke players explained away the loss to Notre Dame in their ACC opener as just a bad outing on the road.
It happens, even to the Blue Devils.
They weren’t so quick to write off the Clemson loss that followed. They got beat on the boards by a season-high 18 rebounds. They couldn’t shoot their way out of it, either, as they were held to a season-low 33.9 percent shooting.
That’s when it got real.
“We took more from the Clemson [loss] than the Notre Dame one,” Duke guard Quinn Cook said. “Anybody can be beat; we can’t just keep outscoring teams. I think we realized that.”
So, in a game in which the Blue Devils' leading scorers Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood combined to shoot just 7-of-26 from the field, it didn't factor much into the outcome. The Devils no longer are relying just on their shooting.
And that’s why Duke has rolled to a four-game win streak with Saturday’s 78-56 win over Florida State. The Blue Devils face their toughest week on the schedule -- not to mention most important in the ACC title race -- with games at Pittsburgh on Monday and at Syracuse next Saturday. They're better prepared for it thanks to what Parker called their "wake-up call" at Clemson.
“It was a time where our season could go one direction on another,” Duke forward Amile Jefferson said. “We came together as a group and said we’re going to fight for our team, we’re going to fight for our season. That’s what our guys have been doing; we’ve been hungry.”
"Hungry" describes the way the Blue Devils went after the boards against the Seminoles, finishing with a plus-23 (47-24) advantage. FSU hadn’t been outrebounded by more than five this season.
Duke’s 27 offensive boards were more than the Noles had overall. It was the second-highest total in the program since 2000, when Duke had 28 offensive rebounds against North Carolina A&T on Dec. 17, 2002.
Even Marshall Plumlee got into the act with a career-high seven rebounds -- all offensive -- for a career-high seven points.
The scary part is that Parker, who had 14 points, might have found another way to round out his game. He had an off game, shooting just 3-of-14 -- which was his worst outing since shooting 2-of-10 at Notre Dame.
But he made up for it by grabbing 10 offensive boards, which tied the most for any player in the Mike Krzyzewski era. His total of 14 rebounds marked his second straight double-double after he had a career-high 15 rebounds and 17 points against Miami.
“It’s just finding different ways that I can contribute to the team and the game,” Parker said. “I found rebounding gives us extra possessions and starts the break, so I just need to get on the boards a little bit more. That’s what the coaches have been emphasizing for me.”
Offensive rebounds and their 29 second-chance points glossed over the Blue Devils’ horrendous shooting in the second half. They shot 22 percent (6-of-27) but still managed to score 14 points on second-chance baskets.
They can thank Clemson for their renewed sense of hustle. Hood, who came off the bench for 18 points and nine rebounds, said the Devils learned from the loss to the Tigers to “play every single play.”
“We’re not playing as lazy as we used to play, and we’re getting offensive rebounds on free throws and everything,” said Hood, who didn't start for the second time this season after getting sick before tipoff. “It helps us get more possessions, and, if we get more possessions, as good an offensive team as we are, we’ll be in a great position.”
Duke is now positioned to make a move on the ACC’s top spot with Pittsburgh and Syracuse ahead. The Orange are the only team unbeaten in league play, and, entering today’s game with Maryland, the Panthers were tied with Virginia with one loss.
The Blue Devils appear to be peaking with their last three wins all by 20 or more points.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said too much was made of Duke’s early losses, but he could tell a different team emerged from it.
“I don’t think that Duke losing to Clemson was that much of a surprise,” Hamilton said. “But I think you see what's happened is they’ve regrouped, they’ve bounced back and they’ve used that loss to learn.”