CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- When Duke set off on its four-game road trip this week, the Blue Devils knew that there was a chance their unbeaten season might soon end.
But when it ended last night, with a 75-73 loss to ninth-ranked North Carolina at the Smith Center, there was no sense that a burden had been lifted from Duke's collective shoulders.
"I didn't think this team was playing under pressure," Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said after his team had its 23-game winning streak broken. "I think we just had fun winning."
Now, with three games on the road still ahead, Duke (17-1, 7-1) must refocus and regroup. The Blue Devils play at No. 22 LSU Saturday, at No. 24 Georgia Tech Wednesday and at North Carolina State Feb. 17.
"If we don't put this one behind us quickly, we're going to have a tough time at LSU," said senior center Christian Laettner, who was held to 12 points last night.
Said senior forward Brian Davis, "The most important thing we have to do is understand why we lost. We lost because we didn't go as hard to the boards as we should have, and we rushed some shots down at the end."
The defeat for the Blue Devils set up a mad -- for the No. 1 spot. Duke has held that ranking the entire season, but could lose it if No. 3 Kansas beats No. 2 Oklahoma State Saturday in Stillwater. All three teams have one defeat, with the Cowboys' first loss coming last night at Nebraska.
But Duke isn't thinking about that. The Blue Devils have experienced other mid-season swoons in recent years, and don't want to see what they have put together fall apart completely.
The loss also makes the Atlantic Coast Conference race a little more interesting. Since North Carolina (16-3, 6-2) is now only a game behind, it makes the March 8 in Durham a trifle more important.
"There's still half a season left," said sophomore forward Grant Hill. "And we still have a lot of things left to do."
Going unbeaten isn't one of them.
NOTES: Bobby Hurley had six assists last night, giving him 713 for his career and moving him past former point guard Tommy Amaker to No. 1 on Duke's all-time list. Amaker is now an assistant coach for the Blue Devils.