Duke won't shy away from tough early matchups

For the fourth consecutive year, Duke lost in the month of February. And the last three seasons have entailed setbacks to Notre Dame, including last Saturday’s 7-3 decision in South Bend, Ind.

But Blue Devils coach John Danowski said he’s not worried that the losses are part of a larger trend nor does he plan on adjusting the team’s schedule to soften it up.

“We play a great schedule, and teams win or lose,” he said Tuesday. “It’s Feb. 21, and you can certainly dodge these teams if you want and try to change the schedule. Or you can compete against the best teams possible, and Notre Dame – year in and year out – doesn’t lose a lot of games. … They’re a terrific team. There’s no dishonor in losing to Notre Dame.”

Duke has gone 81-20 (.820) in more than five years with Danowski, but only 10-6 (.625) in the month of February. The team has dropped games to Maryland, Penn and Harvard over that span, but Danowski said he has no regrets about scheduling those opponents early in the season.

“Scheduling is a funny thing. You get games when you can get them,” he said. “If [Notre Dame coach] Kevin Corrigan calls and says, ‘Hey, we’ve got this date open,’ and you say, ‘Hey, we’ve got that date open, too,’ let’s play. It’s not like April 7 is open because they have their conference games. There’s no real design. I can’t tell you that it’s premeditated. You get the games when you can get them, and that’s it.”

The Blue Devils get a chance to make amends when No. 15 Penn visits Durham, N.C., on Friday night. Danowski hopes that the players will have learned from last week’s loss.

“Like anything else, all you can do is show up and play your games,” he said. “You learn from your wins and you learn from your losses in any season. Whether this game was in April or if it was in February, where is this particular team at at this particular time? Offensively, we know we’ve got to move better off the ball, we’ve got to have better spacing, we’ve got to communicate better. Whatever it is for that particular team, you look for the lessons and you watch the film as a group and you work like heck in practice to get better. After the Rutgers game [a 16-8 win on Feb. 11], you’d say, ‘Let’s play better than we did last week.’ And I think the mantra this week would be, ‘Let’s play better than we did last week.’ So you learn from the Rutgers game, you learn from the Notre Dame game and then you just continue to learn and hopefully grow as a group.”

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