Duke searching for missing desire

By Justin Hite

Sports Writer

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CHAPEL HILL – Just minutes after Duke’ loss to North Carolina, Blue Devils’ coach Mike Krzyzewski was looking for “it.”

He knew his team didn’t have “it” Thursday night – although North Carolina did. He knew they’d need “it” tonight against Syracuse.

He asked for someone to FedEx it to him. He even flexed the idea that he would Tweet, text or have a contest in hopes of finding “it.”

“You need that on both ends of the court – it,” Krzyzewski said. “We didn’t have it, whatever the hell that thing is. In the second half, it wasn’t in our huddle. When they have it, and I thought Carolina had it, you’re going to lose to a team like that.”

The “it” Krzyzewski probably was looking for as his team prepares for a rematch against No. 1 Syracuse is a genuine desire. Krzyzewski said his team played young in Duke’s first loss to an unranked North Carolina team as a top-5 team since 1990.

If they played young, they looked lackadaisical. Duke (21-6, 10-4), which plays host to Syracuse at 7 tonight in a rematch of an overtime thriller at the Carrier Dome, settled for three-pointers late in the game despite holding the lead or being tied for much of the final 10 minutes.

The looks from deep weren’t bad, but Duke missed 10 of its final 11 shots, including a horrendous air ball from the top of the key by Rodney Hood that only further incited the North Carolina fan base.

“The emotion of this game and the respect you have for your opponent and being in this game should carry you through something like that,” Krzyzewski said of the team’s struggles Thursday. “I thought we played young, and we didn’t have the life.

“There was something missing. Carolina wasn’t. I’m not saying we would have won, but it would have been a lot more interesting.”

Duke didn’t work the ball inside against North Carolina’s variety of zone defenses, instead settling to just swing the ball around the arc instead of attacking its rival, hoping – almost desperately – that North Carolina’s rotations would be slow.

Instead of looking for a good shot, Duke will need to find that missing ingredient tonight.

“Maybe we can find it,” Krzyzewski said. “We’ve had it. It’s going to be like a party game pretty soon. If we don’t, we’ll get beat (tonight). Even if you do have it, you can get beat. That’s to me the disappointing thing.”

... I’m walking out of here frustrated, not with the loss, but with the fact that we didn’t ante up the way we should.”

Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or jhite@rmtelegram.com