Blue Devils, Pack still dealing with injuries
No one at N.C. State was sure Monday if Lorenzo Brown will be healthy enough to face Duke in the teams’ rematch this week.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, after seeing Brown dish out 13 assists on his team last month, is certain about the kind of player the Wolfpack point guard is.
“No one gets the ball down the court faster in transition than Brown in college basketball,” Krzyzewsk said. “Right away, as good as your transition is, it’s going to be a little bit slower and not as creative (without Brown). Against us, he had 13 assists, he was like magical with the ball.”
Brown’s play on Jan. 12 at PNC Arena was a big reason the Wolfpack beat Duke 84-76 to hand the Blue Devils their first loss of the season. Brown suffered a sprained ankle last week at Virginia and didn’t play Saturday when Miami edged N.C. State 79-78.
On Monday, Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said Brown still is recovering and doesn’t know if he will be ready for N.C. State’s game at No. 4 Duke on Thursday (9 p.m., WRAL).
“I hope so, but I have no way of knowing,” Gottfried said. “I don’t think he was anywhere near being capable to play the other day. He wanted to and he dressed and went out there, but I still thought he was a few days away. Now, obviously he’s getting treatment around the clock, so we’ll see.”
Brown, who averages 12.7 points and 6.9 assists per game, was injured in the first half this past Tuesday night in Charlottesville, Va. The Wolfpack lost 58-55 to Virginia and will carry a two-game losing streak into the game at Duke (19-2, 6-2).
Those two losses caused the Wolfpack (16-6, 5-4) to drop out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll on Monday.
The loss at N.C. State came in Duke’s first game without senior forward Ryan Kelly, who suffered a right foot injury on Jan. 8 against Clemson. The Blue Devils lost two of their first three games without Kelly but will carry a three-game winning streak into the game with N.C. State.
The Blue Devils beat Florida State 79-60 on Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla.
“They’ve certainly gotten more comfortable playing without him,” Gottfried said. “When you lose a player like him, and we’ve obviously played without Lorenzo, you get some growing pains because you’re learning how to adjust, and they may have appeared to be that way initially with Ryan Kelly.
“It seems now they seem a lot more comfortable with Amile Jefferson and what his role will be with (Josh) Hairston, how they’re going to score the ball without Kelly stretching the defense with his three and how they’re going to defend without Kelly.”
Jefferson, a 6-8 freshman, has become the regular starter in Kelly’s absence. He shares minutes with Hairston, a 6-7 junior.
Krzyzewski said Monday that Kelly’s status remains uncertain as the team’s medical staff waits for his injured foot to heal. Kelly is on crutches and wears a protective boot on his right foot.
“There’s no timetable,” Krzyzewski said. “But we’re hopeful that we will have him back before the end of the season.”
Krzyzewski said Duke’s identity continues to evolve. He said the team knew what it was before Kelly was injured, when the Blue Devils had three senior starters in Kelly, Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry.
“I thought it was balanced, poised, we are a very difficult team to defend,” Krzyzewski said. “We played good defense not forcing turnovers. We were hard to score against. That’s a good identity. Now we’re trying to find a new one without Ryan.”
Over the past three games, Duke has regained a winning identity to remain ranked among the nation’s top five teams.
On Thursday, the Blue Devils will get a chance at revenge against one of two teams to beat them this season.