Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski said he considers tying Dean Smith for
No. 2 on the career wins list a major accomplishment. He also said
it’s not something he’s focusing on.
Perhaps he is more concerned with making sure his team continues
to thrive without starting point guard Kyrie Irving.
While trying to give Krzyzewski his 879th victory that would tie
him with the former North Carolina coach, the top-ranked Blue
Devils look to keep rolling without their injured freshman star
Monday night against Elon.
“(Tying Smith is) obviously a heck of thing, but … I have
never really dwelled on anything like that, number of national
championships or number of wins,” Krzyzewski said of Smith, his
longtime rival with the Tar Heels. “You have to play like you have
something to prove every game, and I try to coach like it’s the
first game that I’ve coached at Duke or at Army or whatever, and
whatever happens after that, happens.”
What has happened is the Blue Devils (10-0) have not missed a
beat since Irving went down. The freshman, averaging a team-best
17.4 points, has missed two games and is out indefinitely with his
right foot in a hard cast.
Nolan Smith has taken over Irving’s ball-handling and
distributing role and helped Duke to a pair of lopsided victories
in his teammate’s absence. He had a team-best 22 points and five
assists in an 84-78 victory over Saint Louis on Dec. 11, a game
after scoring only two points but registering a career-high 10
assists in an 83-48 victory over Bradley on Dec. 8.
Irving’s replacement in the lineup, sophomore Andre Dawkins, had
two points versus the Billikens but scored a career-high 28 in his
first career start Dec. 8.
“Certainly, with Kyrie going down, it changes our team,”
associate head coach Chris Collins said. “He was such a dynamic
player when he had the ball, and we opened the floor and we kind of
played off him doing his thing. Now, we have to change the way we
do things, especially offensively, and a lot of that is predicated
on those two guys (Smith and Kyle Singler) being really
Duke should have a good chance to keep winning with Singler
sidelined against Elon (4-6), which has beaten one Division I
opponent this season. The Phoenix earned that lone victory –
against Gardner-Webb on Dec. 7 – during their third win streak over
the past two seasons.
Elon couldn’t make it three straight victories Friday, falling
71-65 at home to Southern Conference rival Chattanooga. Freshman
guard Jack Isenbarger, averaging a team-best 14.9 points, was the
only Phoenix player to score in double figures with 22.
Duke has won 13 of 18 all-time meetings with Elon, the last
coming on Jan. 2, 1936. The Blue Devils have taken 45 straight
games against Southern Conference opponents and an NCAA-best 83 in
a row at home against non-conference foes.