Duke senior forward Kyle Singler is a quiet guy to begin with.
On the rare night when he doesn’t perform well, he looks as if he dreads the questions that he knows are coming.
“Just couldn’t get going,” he explained Wednesday night after tying a career low with two points in the No. 5-ranked Blue Devils’ 56-41 win at Virginia.
He said it so quietly that a reporter who wasn’t sure he heard it asked Singler to repeat himself.
The big question surrounding a Duke team that has won five in a row is whether Singler is in a slump. He had an awful night against the Cavaliers, with five turnovers, four fouls and a 1-for-5 effort from the field.
He also was held to 10 points on 3-for-17 from the field in a win over North Carolina a week earlier. Through 22 games, Singler was averaging 18.1 points.
Over the last four games, he has averaged 10 points. When that statistic was relayed to Mike Krzyzewski, the coach downplayed it, saying a performance like Singler had against the Cavaliers would bring anybody’s average down.
Krzyzewski said Singler was doing other things well before Wednesday.
“He wasn’t scoring well, but he was playing great defense the other three games,” Krzyzewski said. “Tonight, the foul trouble, it looked like he got frustrated. And then he got that fourth foul – anyway, strange night. I’m not saying he didn’t foul. It was just a strange night. Thank goodness we won on a night we had a strange night.”
Krzyzewski acknowledged that the Virginia game was a poor all-around night for Singler, but said it didn’t mean he wasn’t ready to play. Krzyzewski said he was OK with Singler and joked that the senior was trying to give his teammates an opportunity to step forward.
“Who knows?” Krzyzewski said. “He may be doing things in a strange way in trying to develop our team as one of the co-captains and trying to put his team in a position to help us. And it will be interesting if he’s doing that. I’ll talk to him. He doesn’t have to do that. I’ll think of ways while he’s playing really well.”
The numbers show that it’s probably too soon to say Singler is in some kind of a slump. At Miami on Sunday, he was held to 14 points but shot 6-for-12 from the field, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out three assists.
On Feb. 9 against North Carolina, Singler was 3-for-17 but Krzyzewski said he sacrificed his offense for defense in order to hold hot Tar Heel freshman Harrison Barnes to nine points.
In the previous game against N.C. State, Singler had 14 points on a not-awful 5-for-13 from the field and grabbed nine rebounds. So it may be too soon to say Singler is in a slump.
“I’m getting good shots,” he said. “I’m just not knocking down shots.”
The good thing for Duke is that while Singler’s production has been down, the Blue Devils have won, with guard Seth Curry and center Mason Plumlee emerging as bigger factors in the scoring column.
“I think we’re getting better as a team,” Singler said.
And if it is just one bad game and not a prolonged slump that Singler has experienced recently, he has demonstrated the ability to bounce back before. He was held to five points on 0-for-10 from the field in the NCAA tournament regional final win over Baylor last season.
At the Final Four, he totaled 40 points over two games to win most outstanding players.
Last season Singler was held to nine points on 2-for-13 from the field at Georgia Tech, but scored 30 when the Yellow Jackets visited Duke later in the season.
Duke’s next game, on Sunday, is at home against Georgia Tech. It’s another big opportunity for the Blue Devils, and especially for Singler.