- Associated Press - Sunday, January 7, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - There’s no questioning the talent or the offensive potential for No. 2 Duke with its star freshman class. Finding the defensive play to go with all that hasn’t been easy.

The Blue Devils allowed North Carolina State to shoot 55 percent after halftime in Saturday night’s 96-85 road loss in Atlantic Coast Conference play, one of several upset losses for AP Top 25 teams in the past week.

It was a continuation of shaky defensive play for a young team that trailed the Wolfpack throughout the second half in part because it couldn’t get any stops while giving up a series of drive-and-dish baskets. And the Blue Devils have allowed their first three league opponents combined to shoot nearly 49 percent both from the field and behind the arc.

“We know how to play defense,” freshman guard Trevon Duval said. “We go over it in practice every day. We do it in practice all the time. It’s just translating it to the game and talking. If we talk, then that puts us all in the position to make stops and make the right plays on defense.”

Duke (13-2, 1-2 ACC) ranked 104th nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency by allowing 100 points per 100 possessions through Saturday’s games. Duval pointed to communication problems, while Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski said his team would just have to “keep working at it” after a “crappy” defensive showing and must learn how to handle the challenge of facing every opponent’s best shot.

Consider the Boston College loss on Dec. 9 as an example; the Eagles made 15 of 26 3-pointers in that one.

“We’re their opportunity,” Krzyzewski said. “They’ve never experienced anything like that, where the team you see on tape isn’t the team that shows up against you. And we have to be able to handle that.”

Of course, Duke’s 2015 team that won the national championship had its regular-season defensive struggles, too, only to figure things out. That group went from allowing 65.6 points and 43 percent shooting through the first 33 games to allowing 56.3 points and 38 percent shooting through six NCAA Tournament games.

“We’ve got to get better,” Krzyzewski said. “To me, it’s that simple. Now the process of getting there, that’s what we have to figure out. For the most part, we’ve been able to do that. And hopefully we’ll be able to do that again.”

CHANGES COMING: Expect a lot of movement in Monday’s new AP Top 25 poll, starting at the top.

Five top-10 teams - Duke, No. 4 Arizona State, No. 5 Xavier, No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 10 Kansas - and 13 ranked teams overall had at least one loss this week as of Saturday. Then, on Sunday, top-ranked Michigan State joined that list by losing at Ohio State - becoming the fourth team in the top five to lose to an unranked opponent.

Of that group, only third-ranked Villanova emerged unscathed by beating Marquette and could earn a return trip to No. 1 come Monday.

TOUGH DOUBLE: The list of ranked losers included No. 12 North Carolina, which is the midst of a difficult opening ACC stretch. The Tar Heels lost 81-80 at No. 24 Florida State on Wednesday, and then lost 61-49 at No. 8 Virginia on Saturday.

THE BIG MATCHUP: Sixth-ranked West Virginia already has a win against a top-10 team in Virginia. The Mountaineers added another one Saturday against the seventh-ranked Sooners and freshman star Trae Young, the national leader in scoring and assists.

Young finished with 29 points, but the Mountaineers won 89-76 .

DIGGING OUT: No. 23 Tennessee had started 0-2 in the Southeastern Conference after a loss to Auburn, but the Volunteers beat No. 17 Kentucky on Saturday - beating the Wildcats in Knoxville for the third straight year.

MILLER’S LAMENT: It’s been a wild year for Arizona. The Wildcats went from No. 2 to unranked in a week after a 0-3 showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas in November, then climbed back in the rankings after a nine-game winning streak that included last weekend’s win against then-unbeaten Arizona State.

But on Saturday, the Wildcats lost at Colorado - which upset Arizona State on Thursday - and coach Sean Miller was candid afterward.

“You always want your team to play for you, as the coach,” Miller said. “Our guys, they really struggle playing for me, they really do. We’ll see where we go from here.”

Pressed for more details, Miller put it bluntly: “I can’t get them to play hard, I really can’t.”

“With our team, man, it’s really hard to get our guys to run as fast as they can,” Miller said. “And that’s not them, that’s me, that’s me. I have a hard time reaching our guys.”


More AP college basketball: https://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25


Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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