Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t care about his 1,000th win. The Duke coach is more concerned about simply getting his next one.
The fourth-ranked Blue Devils find themselves in a bit of a tailspin entering their visit to No. 6 Louisville on Saturday.
This was supposed to be the first chance for the Hall of Famer and winningest coach in men’s Division I history to push his victory total into four figures.
But freshman-dominated Duke (14-2, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) ran into trouble, losing back-to-back games to North Carolina State and Miami by double figures to leave Krzyzewski at 997 wins.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino joked Friday that he’s ”very happy that I wouldn’t be part of a trivia question.”
Now, the soonest Coach K can reach 1,000 will be Jan. 25 in Madison Square Garden against St. John’s – but that’s only if the Blue Devils beat the Cardinals (15-2, 3-1).
Lose at Louisville, and at the earliest, the milestone won’t come until Jan. 28 at No. 12 Notre Dame. The way Duke has played lately, that’s no sure thing, and neither is the next game – a visit to No. 2 Virginia on Jan. 31.
Duke hasn’t lost three straight ACC games since 2007 but Krzyzewski says his team is suddenly lacking confidence
These Blue Devils are built around a three-man freshman class led by big man Jahlil Okafor, guard Tyus Jones and swingman Justise Winslow.
In four ACC games, Duke is shooting 43 percent as a team – but that number was inflated by Okafor, a preseason All-American who has made 25 of his 41 shots.
The rest of the team is shooting just 39 percent in conference play and, Krzyzewski said, ”you can’t win doing that.
”We’re not a very confident shooting team right now,” he said.
All those missed shots and mistakes have led to chances for their opponents – and they’ve taken advantage of them.
First, North Carolina State held Duke to 37 percent shooting and led by 19 late in an 87-75 victory that marked the Blue Devils’ first loss. Two nights later, Miami scored 13 fast-break points and turned Duke’s 15 turnovers into 21 points in a 90-74 win that snapped the nation’s longest home-court winning streak.
”People sometimes look to a bad game and say they gave up points,” Pitino said. ”But Duke’s going to run with you, and the other teams, like N.C. State and Miami will run up-and-down. And then certain teams won’t run up-and-down. Sometimes style of play dictates how many points you give up.”
Forward Amile Jefferson says the Blue Devils simply have to embrace playing defense again.
”I think, offensively, we’ll get back, but it has to start on defense,” Jefferson said. ”I think we have to start on the defensive end, getting stops, because the offense at times is not going to be good, but if teams can’t score, they can’t win.”
Duke finds itself at a crossroads heading into Louisville. They will find out whether their recent struggles are merely a hiccup for a group of freshmen still learning what it takes to be successful in the ACC.
Or maybe it’s evidence that this Blue Devils team is more vulnerable than it might have seemed when it opened with 13 straight wins by double figures.
”The taste of losing has to be distasteful,” Krzyzewski said. ”Then you try to figure out how not to have that taste. If you become really good, then you’ve got it, and that’s what I’m going to try to do with this group. And we’ll see how successful we’ll be.”
Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap
AP Basketball Writer Aaron Beard in Durham, North Carolina, and AP freelancer Josh Abner in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.