NEW YORK – The Washington Huskies spent almost a week in New York City. They got to see some Broadway shows and other points of interest. They also got to play two ranked teams in Madison Square Garden and left the Big Apple with two losses.
Freshman Austin Rivers scored 18 points to lead No. 7 Duke to an 86-80 victory over the Huskies on Saturday. Five days earlier Washington left Madison Square Garden after a 79-77 loss to No. 11 Marquette in the Jimmy V Classic.
"We are capable of being competitive with just about anyone," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said. "That doesn't mean anything when you are 4-4. You have to get over the hump. I think we will."
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski knows how close the Huskies came to having one heck of a week in New York.
"We beat a really talented Washington team, the team that's two possessions from being 6-1," he said. "I mean they played really good basketball."
The Huskies struggled in the first half against Duke then got a big lift in the second half from freshman Tony Wroten, who finished with a season-high 23 points.
"We dug ourselves a big hole in the first half," he said. "Being down 17, 18 points, I don't know what it was but we just weren't playing like we usually play. Once we got into our groove it was a little bit too late."
The Blue Devils overcame a 27-for-44 performance at the free throw line.
"Today, one of the stories, quite obviously, is our missed free throws," Krzyzewski said. "You know, we make free throws it's not that close at the end. Now when you miss free throws like that, the result can be different at the end and you can lose. And so the fact that we did that and still won doesn't negate the really good performance that we had."
The Blue Devils (9-1) seemed in control, taking a 19-point lead three times in the second half. But the Huskies (4-4) shook off a terrible first half and started chipping away at the deficit. They were able get as close as six points late when Duke, which entered the game shooting 67.4 percent from the line, made just 12 of 18 free throws over the final 2:30, including a stretch where the Blue Devils made 1 of 2 on four consecutive trips.
"So overall, with the foul trouble, missed free throws and playing a good opponent, I thought this was a heck of a win for us," Krzyzewski said.
Abdul Gaddy's drive got Washington within 78-72 with 58 seconds left. The Blue Devils had made 4 of their last eight free throws when Andre Dawkins made two with 57 seconds to go. The free throw shooting was a lot better over the final 51 seconds as the Blue Devils made 6 of 8 with Dawkins making 1 of 2 with 7 seconds left for an 86-77 lead. Terrence Ross hit a long 3 at the buzzer for the final margin in front of a crowd of 15,525.
Dawkins added 17 points for Duke, while Ryan Kelly had 16 and eight rebounds and Mason Plumlee had 12 points and nine rebounds.
"We knew they would score in spurts and they did," Dawkins said. "We got a little lax but we were able to finish the game out."
Dawkins said the trouble his teammates had at the line didn't affect him.
"I took those free throws like they were the first of the game," he said. "You can't worry about what happened in the past. You have to take care of right then."
Plumlee entered the game shooting 42.3 percent from the line (22 of 52) but was just 2 of 11 on Saturday.
"That can't happen," Plumlee said of the free throw shooting. "That was on me and nobody else. I've got a lot of work to do."
C.J. Wilcox added 22 points for the Huskies and Ross had 16.
The Blue Devils were in the building for the first time since Krzyzewski became the winningest men's Division I coach with victory No. 903 last month against Michigan State. They have won 14 of their last 16 games at Madison Square Garden and are 22-7 there under Krzyzewski.
"We love coming up to Madison Square Garden," Krzyzewski said. "We try to do it once every year and, great crowd, our school loves it. ... I love playing at Cameron, but outside of Cameron, Madison Square Garden is the place."
Rivers loves it.
"I could play here every day, this is fun," said Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We play here all the time so we might as well get used to it."
Rivers and fellow guard Seth Curry both fouled out, giving valuable minutes down the stretch to Tyler Thornton and Quinn Cook.
"Quinn Cook really gave us some huge minutes in handling the ball and he was 4 of 6 from the line," Krzyzewski said.
Washington was playing in the Garden for the second time in five days. The Huskies lost 79-77 to No. 11 Marquette in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday. The team got to spend plenty of free time in New York City, seeing Broadway shows and visiting the 9/11 Memorial, but the trip didn't do much for the won-loss record.
"We concluded a very long road trip where our team has learned some valuable lessons," Romar said.
Dawkins had 14 points as the Blue Devils took a 40-26 halftime lead, outrebounding the Huskies 27-18 and outscoring them inside 22-10. Washington shot just 32.3 percent in the half (10 of 31). The Huskies were able to even the numbers out, finishing tied at 38 in points in the paint and getting within 41-36 in rebounds. They shot 61.8 percent in the second half (21 of 34).
"I was proud that our guys didn't quit," Romar said. "Our guys hung in there, battled, scrapped."
Kelly, who was 2 of 10 from the field in the first half, scored seven points as Duke opened the second half on a 9-4 run to lead 49-30 with 17:53 to play.
The loss dropped the Pac-12 to 0-10 this season against ranked teams.