With Duke's last minute defeat to Maryland Saturday at the Comcast Center, the Blue Devils were given only their third loss of the season. However, I feel this one was the most crucial.
As opposed to the previous two losses, everyone learned a lot more about this Duke squad. This was a winnable game which Maryland was in control for all the second half.
Here are a few takeaways from the 83-81 defeat on Saturday.
Mason Plumlee has been on the Naismith watch all season, but against Maryland he was an utter disappointment.
Plumlee only scored four points and ultimately fouled out. Alex Len, who is bigger than Plumlee, easily won the battle between the two best big men in the ACC.
The other bigger and physical players on the Maryland roster completely frustrated Plumlee the whole night. It looked as if the first time this season he was completely rattled by the stronger defenders.
Plumlee will need to play tougher the rest of the season. He possess an NBA forward body, but he has to play like he has one.
Seth Curry was clearly the most outstanding performer for the Devils against the Terrapins. Through the ups and downs of this 2012-13 season, he'll always be the true leader of this team.
What caught my eye is that Coach K wants Curry making the final shot at the end of the game. This isn't a surprise really, but it was really one of the first opportunities this season where Coach Krzyzewski had to draw up a final shot for someone.
Curry had a near make off a screen, but it did not go down. Even though he did not make it, it is clear he will run the show at the end of the game. Since he has improve his playmaking ability this season, I find him the best option.
Even though Plumlee has been terrific, I'm dubious about him creating his own shot at the conclusion of a game.
Jefferson started the game, but Hairston finished it. Hairston proved to be Duke's dirty worker with an impressive, much-needed performance.
Hairston had 11 points in 25 minutes of action against Maryland. Everyone was aware that Amile Jefferson or Josh Hairston would have his role increased with Ryan Kelly going down with a foot injury.
After his performance, Hairston should be in the starting lineup until Kelly returns. Duke will need the toughness he demonstrated Saturday.
Duke got killed on the boards. The Blue Devils simply got demolished. It's an issue when Rasheed Sulaimon, a 6'4" guard, led the team in rebounds with a mere four.
Plumlee has been excellent on the glass this whole season, but Duke needs more guys off the glass. With Josh Hairston's role increasing, his primary role must be to secure rebounds.
Duke has a small lineup to stretch the floor. However, it comes with cons, which includes the lack of height on the defensive end. Alex Len, Dez Wells and Jake Layman all had more rebounds than any Duke player Saturday.
Duke will not reach its immensely high expectations if it cannot win the battle on the glass.
Quinn Cook was competing this summer to be the top point guard on the Devils' roster.
Now he has emerged to be be the best point guard in the ACC.
Cook, who put on another impressive performance, had 18 points, six assists and four scrappy steals against Maryland. He has easily made the biggest leap from last season than anyone on this Duke roster.
He has been great, and Coach K cannot be anymore pleased with his efforts at the point guard position.
Quinn Cook is averaging an impressive 12.3 PPG, 5.8 APG and 4.0 RPG.