Senior forward Kyle Singler paused and thought for a moment when asked what coach Mike Krzyzewski said to Duke's players Sunday afternoon after a humbling 93-78 loss to St. John's at Madison Square Garden.
Krzyzewski's signature trait in 31 seasons as Duke's coach has been his ability to take McDonald's All-Americans and get them to play harder than the guys on opposing rosters who felt snubbed in the recruiting process.
That didn't happen Sunday as St. John's played "beautifully," according to Krzyzewski, and No. 3-ranked Duke lacked the intensity that has been its trademark. After the game, Singler said, Krzyzewski didn't have much to say to the team.
The silence might have been more telling than anything that could have come out of Krzyzewski's mouth.
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"This is a tough loss," Singler said. "It's a horrible loss."
St. John's (12-8) had lost five of six entering the game but also owned wins over West Virginia, Notre Dame and Georgetown that illustrated what the Red Storm could do against quality opponents.
The Blue Devils (19-2) knew what was coming against an opponent that had a size disadvantage. St. John's pressed Duke to create 17 turnovers, including 11 in the first half.
St. John's spread out Duke's defense and burned the Blue Devils with drives and backdoor cuts. Krzyzewski tried man-to-man, zone, full-court pressure and a variety of lineup combinations big and small. He even removed senior team leaders Singler and Nolan Smith at the same time for about 90 seconds early in the game.
But almost nothing worked. Krzyzewski said X's and O's had little impact on the result of the game because Duke just didn't play hard enough. Nolan Smith scored 32 points, one short of a career high, and Singler added 20, but it wasn't nearly enough.
"I just thought we were not ready to compete," Krzyzewski said. "We had blank expressions on our faces. Guys weren't talking. And that's my responsibility. That's our program. Our program didn't do well here today. And that's all of our responsibilities."
Krzyzewski acknowledged that the Blue Devils might not have won even if they had showed more intensity. In St. John's first sellout at Madison Square Garden since a game with Duke in 2003, a crowd of 19,353 fans brought energy to first-year coach Steve Lavin's first big nonconference home game.
The Red Storm's players fed off the crowd. Guard Dwight Hardy scored 26 points and handed out six assists, and forward Justin Brownlee added 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists as St. John's led by as many as 25 points and shot 58.2 percent from the field.
Duke hadn't allowed an opponent to shoot that well since the last time they played a Big East opponent on the road, exactly one year earlier. On Jan. 30, 2010, Georgetown shot 71.7 percent against Duke in an 89-77 win.
After that game, the Blue Devils won 18 of 19 and captured the ACC and NCAA titles. But forward Ryan Kelly said there's not much of a comparison between the Georgetown and St. John's games, as the current team is different and building its own identity.
Kelly didn't like how this Duke team looked Sunday.
"What it really comes down to is we didn't come ready to play," Kelly said. "We didn't match their intensity. They played harder than us. And that's not good."
Even Duke's poor 3-point shooting - the Blue Devils were 1-for-21 before making four straight and finishing 5-for-26 - wasn't the cause for concern.
Krzyzewski wants his team to defend so skillfully that it can survive a poor shooting performance.
That didn't come close to happening Sunday.
"In order to beat them today we would have had to have shown up and compete at the level that we normally compete at," Krzyzewski said. "But as a program today, we did not show up to compete until about the middle of the second half. And that's extremely disappointing."