Exam week is not easy for a young Duke squad coming off a loss

Kyle Young, Jamari Wheeler, Wendell Moore

Ohio State’s Kyle Young, left, and Jamari Wheeler, right, and Duke’s Wendell Moore chase a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The Duke Blue Devils are in the midst of a two-week lull in action.

It’s exam time on campus and the Devils’ four-man freshman class is taking on a different kind of challenge.

“This time for a freshman is very tiring,” said Duke assistant coach Nolan Smith. “Definitely more mentally than physically, you can tell during this time that they are fatigued mentally.

“It’s definitely a challenging time for a freshman and all of our guys but definitely for the freshmen.”

Unfortunately for Duke, the Devils headed into the exam period coming off their only loss of the season.

Ohio State beat Duke 71-66 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, a loss that knocked the Devils from the top spot in the Associated Press poll.

“Being our first true road game I think our guys definitely relaxed,” Smith admitted. “You don’t put a team away on the road by yourself. In the second half there was something missing.”

The Buckeyes outscored the Devils 41-23 in the second half, erasing a 13 point halftime deficit. The Duke coaching staff felt their guys didn’t share the ball enough in the final 20 minutes of play.

“Going one-on-one is not going to get it versus a really good defensive team,” Smith said of Duke’s second-half play in Columbus. “As we get into conference we’re going to play against a lot of really good defensive teams and we can’t beat ourselves.”

ACC play is still two weeks away. Duke will host three non-conference games before welcoming Virginia Tech to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Dec. 22.

“We’ve learned a lot about our team,” said Smith about Duke’s 7-1 start. “We’re very competitive, we’re very together especially on the defensive end of the court. Defensively our guys brought the energy, they brought the fight every single night.”

Next up for Duke is a Dec. 14 matchup with South Carolina State

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