DURHAM, N.C. – Before the game on Saturday, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski made sure his dogs were in the house.
Then he unleashed them on the Wolverines, implementing a trap that bewildered and confused Michigan throughout the entire first half of the game. This tenacious Duke defense led to 19 turnovers and 10 steals in the first 20 minutes. Michigan finished the game with a season-high 25 turnovers.
With the Blue Devils up by 19 at halftime, Krzyzewski called off the dogs, only occasionally running a full-court press for the rest of the game. With more room to bring the ball up court, Michigan committed just six turnovers in the second half en-route to the 81-59 loss.
Since Duke did not pressure as much, Michigan was able to use more of the shot clock and set up its offense. It also meant that the Wolverines, who ended the day without any fast-break points, would not have to try and run with the faster Blue Devils.
“We were trying not to have the turnovers that would lead to fast break points (that would) get the energy of the crowd and the building up and rev up their team even more,” said Amaker, who played four years at Cameron Indoor Stadium from 1984 to 1987. “Those were the (turnovers) that I was disappointed with the most.
“Those points were more than just the two points that they scored – they were demoralizing for us.”
The Blue Devils swiped the ball away from the Wolverines 14 times – six of which were by guard Chris Duhon.
Duke was able to score 20 points off Michigan turnovers in the first half alone, while the Wolverines were only able to muster four points off six Duke turnovers.
One of the more spectacular turnovers for Michigan came midway through the first half, when point guard Daniel Horton tried lobbing the ball up court to an open man to break the trap. With the ball at the top of its arc, Duke senior Dahntay Jones jumped at midcourt, grabbed the ball out of midair and turned right around on the Wolverines defense.
Many of these turnovers were caused by careless ball handling and throwing the ball into Duke players’ hands, allowing for easy transition points.
“We were being careless with the ball and making mental mistakes,” freshman Lester Abram said. “Most turnovers are mental mistakes. When you just throw the ball to your man and they can just come and steal the ball away, that is a mental mistake.”
It was this ability of the Blue Devils to get in the passing lanes and break up or steal haphazard or errant passes that led to many of the Wolverines turnovers. Duke’s guard corps, which is considered some of the fastest in the nation, was able to pressure Michigan’s perimeter players all night long.
“We have been really concentrating on our team defense and helping one another out,” Krzyzewski said. “We are not just moving individually but moving collectively. That’s how you get the turnovers.”
LaVell Blanchard and Bernard Robinson, who were called on to help break the trap while Horton suffered from foul trouble, combined for 13 turnovers between them. Blanchard led the team with seven.
Turnover trouble has been a problem since day one for the Wolverines. With 25 on Saturday against Duke, Michigan is averaging just under 17 per game.
The Wolverines have also been inconsistent, taking care of the ball better in some games than in others. They racked up 20 and 21 against St. Bonaventure and Western Michigan, respectively, but just had nine against Virginia Tech and 12 against Central Michigan.
“I think for us, the most difficult part was taking care of the basketball,” Amaker said. “For us to get ourselves going and get a chance to get our program going, we need to value the basketball a lot more than we showed here.”