DURHAM, N.C. — All they needed was one player to fall for it.
“No. 20, your shoe’s untied!”
They weren’t going to stop. Duke fans put the “Crazy” in Cameron Indoor Stadium by being relentlessly loud, shamelessly sophomoric, undeniably clever, but, above all else, incessant.
Freshman Boston College guard Olivier Hanlan didn’t bite.
“I try not to listen to that stuff,” he said.
When BC’s Patrick Heckmann lost a loose ball out of bounds, they went after his self-esteem.
“You let the whole team down,” they chanted, with a parent’s disapproving tone.
But Heckmann had heard worse playing ball overseas.
“It’s all about getting in your head,” he said.
The Eagles’ Joe Rahon couldn’t help himself.
It was his first time at Cameron. It was the first time for all of the baby-faced Eagles, who’ve taken their lumps all season in Atlantic Coast Conference 101.
“What everyone says about it is pretty accurate,” Rahon said. “The students, they’re loud, they’re into it, they’re crazy, and Duke’s a whole different team when they play on their home floor with the crowd behind them.”
As Rahon tried to keep whatever focus he had together, a pocket of Crazies gave it one more shot: “Tie your shoe, 25!”
When Rahon glanced quickly at his shoe, he gave them exactly what they wanted.
“You looked!” one fan said, happy with the small psychological victory.
After the Eagles took an 89-68 loss Sunday, easily their worst performance of the season, Rahon grinned sheepishly and admitted, “I did.”
The Eagles fell to 0-7 at Cameron.
“Our crowd was hungry,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
In addition to the building, the Eagles had to deal with a Duke team (24-3, 11-3) that was looking to send a message after having to run a two-minute drill to scrape together a 1-point win at BC just two weeks ago.
“Duke, they respected us,” coach Steve Donahue said. “They felt that they had to play well and they were not going to let what happened in our place happen down here. In a strange way, I want our guys to learn from that. They had an attitude. I thought they posted up hard, they guarded hard. The attitude that they played with was what winning teams do.”
They sent the message express. They forced eight turnovers in the first 10 minutes, shot 62 percent in the first half, made the 3-pointer a non-option for a BC team that lives and dies by it, ran their lead up to 31, put five players in double digits, including Mason Plumlee (19 points, 15 rebounds), and decimated BC (12-15, 4-10).
“They kept punching us and punching us and punching us,” said Heckmann (15 points on 5-of-7 shooting). “We couldn’t handle it the first couple of minutes and that’s what lost us the game.
“I think all of us were surprised and we shouldn’t have been. We should have been the team that tried to punch them in the mouth first. That’s what we’ve got to learn.”
There were stretches, such as the nearly six-minute scoring drought in the first half, when the Eagles were shellshocked and they knew it.
“Everyone kind of went into their own little shell out there and they started worrying about themselves because they didn’t want to make a mistake and add on to the downhill spin,” Rahon said. “That’s a time when we need to come together and try to make plays for each other and try to get the thing turned around.”
Donahue said he was curious to see how his freshman backcourt would handle the Cameron experience. The Blue Devils did everything they could to swarm to the ball and make everything a blur. Rahon (6 points, 6 rebounds) missed four of his five shots, and along with Hanlan (12 points, 3 assists) combined for seven turnovers.
“I was kind of all over the place today,” Hanlan said. “They just came out with crazy intensity, trying to speed us up on offense, and everybody was trying to make the same plays you do normally, but even faster. I just have to learn from the tape.”
The Blue Devils beat the Eagles for the seventh straight time overall, and Donahue said he wanted his team to file the experience away and learn from it.
“Not that I want to get our [butts] kicked, but if it’s going to happen, I want to see how we’re going to respond, I want to see us grow from it, I want to look them in the eye and say that’s who we are right now,” Donahue said. “We’re not good enough to come down here. Next time we get this experience, they’re going to be relaxed and confident and trust their teammates. It’s all part of the process, unfortunately.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.