CHICAGO – Solidity and solidarity.
These are two subjects Jon Scheyer, Duke basketball coach mentioned during the preseason when asked about lessons the Blue Devils could learn from their loss to Tennessee in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
The second-year head coach addressed these topics again after Duke loses to Arizona.
In Tuesday night’s 74-65 win over No. 18 Michigan State.the ninth-ranked Blue Devils checked both boxes at the United Center.
After Duke’s loss to the Wildcats, Scheyer said the Blue Devils hadn’t played together and “didn’t play Duke basketball.” But he is full of praise for his team’s performance in Chicago.
There was a stretch against the Spartans that showed growth. Three Blue Devils dove on the floor to smother a Spartan and force a jump ball. Duke took possession – and got a bucket on its next trip down the court.
In addition to the choppy plays, the Blue Devils had 17 assists on 22 field goals, won the rebounding battle and drained 24 of 30 free throws in a hard-fought performance against the hard-nosed Spartans.
“We’ve stepped up our efforts in a big way,” Scheyer said. “I learned more about this team in the first three games than maybe any team I’ve been with, as an assistant coach, as a head coach…reply so quickly in a matter of days, I think that says a lot about their character.
Duke Basketball’s Ryan Young and Caleb Foster respond against Michigan State
After the loss to Arizona, Young and Foster were among the players who received a lot of criticism on social media. Young responded with eight points, seven rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes against the Spartans.
“I thought rebounding and responding and just doing whatever it took to win, that’s what it was all about,” Scheyer said. “By doing whatever it took to win, these guys did it.”
Foster’s performance was even better. After scoring zeroes against the Wildcats, Foster had 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting – including four 3-pointers – and three rebounds.
“I was really angry that we lost, but one thing my dad always told me is to stay steady,” Foster said. “There are going to be ups and downs throughout the season, so keep your head up and keep working.”
During his opening comments Tuesday, Scheyer made a point of mentioning Foster’s response after the tough outing against Arizona.
“He came back from a game on Friday where he didn’t like the way things went,” Scheyer said.
“Whether he’s mad at me, mad at the way he played or mad at the game…whether he plays at Duke – or whether he plays anywhere – there will be ups and downs. There will be times when you get pushback, but the program I know from Duke, it’s all about how you respond.
Playing against a Michigan State starting lineup that has 500 games of experience, Foster, Young and the Blue Devils rose to the challenge. They also checked two boxes that could shape the rest of their season.
Editor Rodd Baxley can be reached at email@example.com or @RoddBaxley on X/Twitter.