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No excuses, but many questions after Duke loss

Published Sep. 2, 2005

Mike Krzyzewski makes no excuses. Still, questions abound after Duke's ouster from the NCAA Tournament by Indiana.

"There are human elements in all these things," the coach said. "I would never, ever blame a loss on one play, or an official, or a player. If you want to blame anybody blame me."

The nation's No. 1 team, with perhaps college basketball's No. 1 player and No. 1 coach, squandered a 17-point first-half lead. With their lead fast evaporating, the Blue Devils did not switch to a zone despite being in foul trouble and Indiana strong inside.

Then there's All-American Jason Williams, who missed a free throw with four seconds left that would have tied it.

"The game is too great to reduce it to excuses or making bogus statements like: "If this would have happened or that would have happened,' " Krzyzewski said. "Well, it didn't happen. Be a man and congratulate the winner and go on."

The top-seeded Blue Devils (31-4) will have spring and summer to mull this. This was, after all, a team that returned four starters from last year's national championship squad.

Was Krzyzewski too stubborn to switch to a defense he seldom uses, but one that may well have been called for as the game began to slip away? Indiana won without making a 3-pointer in the second half as it pounded the ball inside to Jared Jeffries, who scored 24 points and had 15 rebounds, Jarrad Odle and Jeff Newton.

The Hoosiers had 16 offensive rebounds in the second half. Krzyzewski had 6-10 Nick Horvath and 6-11 Matt Christensen on the bench, but neither played. Casey Sanders was the only Duke big man to play as a reserve, and only for five minutes.

"My guys have been terrific for me all year," Krzyzewski said. "It's hard for me to be sad about one game when I get an opportunity to work with these kids on a day-to-day basis."

Williams has been plagued by mediocre free-throw shooting while at Duke. That shortcoming in an otherwise stellar career was highlighted in three losses this season.

Williams missed six straight down the stretch in an early January upset at Florida State. He missed one in the closing seconds at Virginia that could tied the score late, and then there was the one that could have sent the Indiana game into overtime.

"I'm not sad about losing," Williams said. "I'm just sad that it's over. This has been the greatest ride of my life. I've done so much growing up in this last year, more than I can ever have imagined. I'm just sad it's coming to an end."

Duke's players didn't blame Williams.

"He's going to do amazing things at the next level," Chris Duhon said. "It hurts to see that kid always be the one taking the pressure shots and then get blamed for winning and losing."