Mike Krzyzewski looks to put win No. 1,000 in rearview mirror
After months of talk about how about how Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski would become the first NCAA Division I men’s coach with 1,000 victories and weeks of speculation on when and where it would happen, the focus now turns to win No. 1,001.
So after all that anticipation and excitement of reaching that milestone victory with a 77-68 win over St. John’s at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, how do the fourth-ranked Blue Devils avoid a letdown playing at No. 8 Notre Dame on Wednesday night?
”Well, we’re trying to figure that out,” Krzyzewski said. ”I think our team this last month has gone through some things that no other team has gone through because of all this. It’s a different journey.”
The Blue Devils (17-2, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) also have a game looming at No. 2 Virginia on Saturday. For the Irish (19-2, 7-1), the game against the Blue Devils is about as big as it gets.
The game will mark the first time in nearly 12 years that two top 10 teams have played at Purcell Pavilion. The last time was Feb. 9, 2003, when the 10th-ranked Irish beat No. 4 Pittsburgh 66-64. Before that, the last time two top 10 teams met at Notre Dame was when the ninth-ranked Irish defeated No. 7 Indiana 68-64 on Dec. 9, 1980.
”I think our fans are going to be through the roof,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
The Irish, who last season posted their first losing record since 1998-99, are off to their best start since opening 24-1 in Digger Phelps’ third season as coach in 1973-74. A big reason for that has been the play of Jerian Grant, who missed the second half of last season because of an academic suspension. He is averaging 16.8 points and 6.1 assists a game. Krzyzewski describes him as one of the best players in the country.
”He puts his fingerprints on everything that’s going on in the game,” Krzyzewski said. ”Grant makes all of their good players even better. He’s that force multiplier. If you have a great player, that’s what a great player does.”
Duke has a player like that in 6-11 freshman Jahlil Okafor, who is averaging 18.5 points and nine rebounds a game, is shooting 67 percent from the floor and has scored in double figures in 19 straight games. He’s also been good at passing out of double teams.
”He wants to pass. He has made overall great decisions in handling that,” Krzyzewski said. ”We’re better if passes out and we hit shots. In the games we’ve played well in, we’ve hit a good percentage of those shots.”
Notre Dame stunned No. 7 Duke with a 79-77 victory last season in the first ACC game for the Irish, ending an 11-game losing streak to the Blue Devils. Brey said that win, along with this season’s win at North Carolina, have helped the Irish gain credibility in the ACC.
”We’re trying to earn our stripes in the ACC,” he said. ”Those are things that make you feel like you belong in this league and you’re not a stepchild any more. You’re in for real.”