Duke-Virginia Tech Preview
Duke showed it could win without Jahlil Okafor but would certainly welcome back its top scorer and rebounder Wednesday night.
The fourth-ranked Blue Devils hope to have their injured big man in the lineup as they go on the road seeking an eighth consecutive victory overall and against Virginia Tech.
About an hour before Saturday’s 78-56 home win over Clemson, the team announced its star freshman would sit for the first time with an ankle injury suffered during last Wednesday’s 92-90 overtime win over then-No. 15 North Carolina.
"The kid wanted to play so badly," coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the 6-foot-11 Okafor, among the ACC leaders with 17.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. "We talked to him about not feeling guilty, you’re not letting anybody down."
Krzyzewski said Monday that the progression continues for Okafor, who has recorded 13 rebounds in each of his last two games and a double-double in three of four.
"He’s a big guy, obviously, and he keeps improving every day," Krzyzewski said. "We’re hoping that he’ll be able to play by Wednesday."
The Blue Devils (24-3, 11-3 ACC) weren’t hindered by Okafor’s absence while extending their winning streak Saturday. Quinn Cook scored 27 and Justise Winslow added 20 with 13 rebounds and four steals as Duke shot 51.7 percent, scored 42 points in the paint and owned a 19-4 advantage in fast-break points.
"If we have (Okafor), if we don’t, we’ve got more than enough weapons to get the job done," said fellow freshman Winslow, who has averaged 15.3 points and 9.1 boards over the last seven games.
"Of course we would love to have Jah," Winslow added. "He’s a special player. Everybody in the country would love to have him. We want to get him back soon, but if we can’t have him, I think we can figure out ways to get wins."
Cook (15.5 ppg), meanwhile, has averaged 23.0 points in the last four games while hitting 15 3-pointers.
"I’m not sure anyone in the league has played better than Quinn," Krzyzewski said.
Regardless of what the lineup looks like, the Blue Devils should feel confident going into their only regular-season meeting with Virginia Tech (10-17, 2-12). Beginning with an 88-56 win in its last visit to Blacksburg on Feb. 21, 2013, Duke has won the last three meetings by an average of 26.0 points.
With or without Okafor, Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams understands the difficulty that awaits his team.
"There’s a litany of problems they pose for us, not just Jahlil," Williams said. "We’ll have our hands full. Fuller than they’ve been all year long I anticipate."
The Hokies’ only two league victories came at home, most recently beating Georgia Tech 65-63 on Feb. 9. They have followed that victory with three straight road losses by an average of 20.3 points, scoring just 53.0 per game.
Top scorers Adam Smith (13.6 ppg) and Justin Bibbs (12.6) totaled 34 points on 14-of-26 shooting Saturday, but their teammates shot 8 for 22 in a 69-53 loss at North Carolina State. Bibbs has totaled 11 points while shooting 3 of 15 in the last two at home.
Virginia Tech has dropped 15 straight against ranked opponents, and its only win over a top-10 foe in the past five years came against then-No. 1 Duke on Feb. 26, 2011.