Louisville put up an inspired effort on Saturday by hosting No. 9 Duke under interim coach Mike Pegues in the program’s first game since Chris Mack’s coaching tenure ended. But the Blue Devils made clutch plays in the streak to escape with a 74-65 victory as freshman winger AJ Griffin tied a career high with 22 points.
Griffin knocked down all five of his 3-point attempts, including two in quick succession with less than six minutes to go after Louisville tied the game twice in the second half. The win put Duke (17-3, 7-2 ACC) behind first-ranked ACC-ranked Miami and made coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final scheduled trip to KFC Yum! Center a positive memory.
Legendary former Louisville coach Denny Crum presented Krzyzewski with a personalized Louisville Slugger baseball bat and a bottle of bourbon with Krzyzewski’s face before the game. Although the two have never been conference rivals since Louisville only joined the ACC in 2013-14, they have had a few battles. Under Crum, Louisville went 3-0 against Duke teams coach K, and that included a classic national title game in 1986. Crum’s Cardinals won 72-69, ending the Krzyzewski’s bid for his first national title.
As Krzyzewski coaches his final season at Duke before handing the program over to associate head coach Jon Scheyer, we’ll update this article with the latest tributes – and tribulations – from a legend’s farewell tour. ‘coaching.
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Denny Crum greets Coach K
Legendary former Louisville coach Denny Crum presented Krzyzewski with a personalized Louisville Slugger baseball bat and a bottle of bourbon with Krzyzewski’s face before the Cardinals and Blue Devils faced off Jan. 29. Louisville also gave Duke everything he could handle on the court before Coach K’s practice. The team escaped with a 74-65 win. With Trevor Keels again out of the lineup with a leg injury, a big game from fellow freshman AJ Griffin helped propel Duke to victory. Griffin scored 22 points and made all five of his 3-point attempts.
Blue Devils bounce back without Trevor Keels
Duke responded to a Jan. 18 loss at Florida State by knocking out Syracuse 79-59 on Jan. 22 in Coach K’s latest friend and longtime rival Jim Boeheim of Syracuse. The Blue Devils’ next game, however, featured a little more drama. Clemson staged a valiant upset bid before Duke closed strong for a 71-69 win on Jan. 25 that improved their home winning streak against the Tigers to 20 games. Paolo Banchero led the Blue Devils with 19 points while sophomore center Mark Williams contributed a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Banchero’s successful shot with 10 seconds left put Duke up 71-67 and helped cement the result. Out for the second straight game was freshman guard Trevor Keels, who was injured in Florida State’s loss. Sophomore point guard Jeremy Roach returned to the starting lineup in place of Keels and had 18 assists to just two turnovers in wins over Syracuse and Clemson.
FSU honors Coach K and causes Duke to lose
Florida State honored Krzyzewski before the Seminoles hosted the No. 6 Blue Devils on Jan. 18 by announcing a donation to the Emily K Center. Seminoles fans also gave him a standing ovation before the game as he made his final trip to the Donald L. Tucker Center as Duke head coach. But the applause and the donation to the philanthropic organization near the Duke campus named in honor of Krzyzewski’s mother were the extent of the jokes. Once the ball was knocked down, FSU became tenacious and used a decisive advantage in points on turnovers and second-chance points to secure a 79-78 victory in overtime. Duke will have a chance for revenge on Feb. 19 at Duke in what could be the last big battle between Coach K and legendary FSU coach Leonard Hamilton.
Coach K is sick
Just hours before a Jan. 12 game at Wake Forest, Duke announced that Krzyzewski would miss the game due to a virus unrelated to COVID-19. In his absence, Jon Scheyer was named interim head coach. Considering Scheyer takes over from Krzyzewski after this season, the game has been set up as a preview of what lies ahead for the program. It brought an encouraging result as the Blue Devils outlasted the Demon Deacons 76-64 behind a combined 46 points from Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin. He returned Jan. 15 for Duke’s win over NC State as the Blue Devils got a combined 40 points from front court players Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams.
First home defeat
The Blue Devils lost 76-74 at home to Miami on January 8. It was their first home loss of the season. A jumper from Kameron McGusty put the Hurricanes ahead 75-74 with 20 seconds left, and Duke missed three potential shots from there, including a 3-point miss from Trevor Keels as the final bell sounded. Coach K pointed to turnovers as a major issue in the game as the Blue Devils turned him over 17 times, unlike Miami who only committed five turnovers.
COVID-19 break and Devoe drama
Duke started ACC play with a 76-65 home win over Virginia Tech on Dec. 22, but then a speed bump. As much of college basketball has faced schedule disruptions due to COVID-19 concerns, the Blue Devils were among those impacted by the virus. This kept them from playing their second and third championship games as scheduled against Clemson and Notre Dame, meaning Duke’s second game with the ACC didn’t come until Jan. 4 against Georgia Tech.
The break didn’t seem to bother the Blue Devils too much as they eliminated the Yellow Jackets 69-57 in their first return game. The game featured extracurricular drama as Krzyzewski and Georgia Tech star Michael Devoe exchanged words late in the second half after Devoe pointed Coach K and the Duke bench after a basket that caused a Duke timeout.
“He said ‘you don’t know who you’re talking to,'” Devoe recalled of his exchange with Krzyzewski. “But I was just trying to compete with them. That’s all there was. So I guess he took it badly. But me, as a competitor, I want to beat Duke.”
Back from a break
Duke had a two-week break between games spanning the first two weeks of December amid the final exam period for college. But he came back with a 103-62 win over South Carolina State on Dec. 14 and followed that up with a 92-67 win over Appalachian State on Dec. 16. He was supposed to play Loyola (Maryland) on December 18, but the reunion was canceled due to a COVID-19 issue within the Loyola program. Replacement opponent Cleveland State also had to cancel Duke due to the same issue, which left the Blue Devils scrambling to find a potential third opponent for the slot. Elon agreed to play on short notice, giving Duke one final tune-up before the ACC game.
The wins over South Carolina State and Appalachia State were two of the best games yet for freshman forward AJ Griffin. He made 5 of 9 attempts from 3-point range in those contests to bolster the team’s perimeter shooting prospects after struggling in that area in the first month of the season.
Short stay at n°1
Just a day after reaching No. 1 in the AP Top 25 following a thrilling win over Gonzaga, Duke lost a 71-66 decision to Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Buckeyes beat Duke 41-23 in the second half and roared after a 15-point deficit behind a 20-point night from sophomore big man Zed Key. Wendell Moore Jr. led the Blue Devils with 17 and Paolo Banchero added 14. But Banchero struggled in the second half, going 0-7 from the field in the second half.
Knock down the Zags, climb to #1
Duke improved to 7-0 with an 84-81 victory over No. 1 Gonzaga on Nov. 26 in front of a crowd of 20,389 at T-Mobile Arena. It was the biggest crowd to ever see a basketball game in Nevada, and they were treated to a thriller. Paolo Banchero scored 20 points in the first half before dealing with cramp in the second half and shutting up. Wendell Moore Jr. took over scoring 16 of his 20 points in the second half.
The win took Krzyzewski to 7-11 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams, and catapulted the Blue Devils to No. 1 in the new rankings released three days later.
Preparing for Gonzaga
Duke easily won matches against Lafayette and The Citadel on Nov. 19 and 22 as he prepared to face No. 1 Gonzaga on Nov. 26. The Blue Devils beat Lafayette 88-55 behind a 23-point outing from Wendell Moore Jr. Duke beat The Citadel 107-81 behind a combined 50 points from Moore and Paolo Banchero. There was a scary moment in the Citadel game, when Bulldogs coach Duggar Baucom collapsed on the pitch in the first half. He spent the night at Duke University Hospital and was released the afternoon after the game.
CFA fees for grandson
An otherwise excellent start to Krzyzewski’s final season hit a speed bump in the early morning hours of Nov. 14, when Duke walk-on Michael Savarino, who is Krzyzewski’s grandson, was arrested on suspicion of DWI. To complicate matters, star Duke freshman Paolo Banchero was a passenger in the vehicle and was cited for aiding and abetting DWI. But while Savarino was suspended, Banchero was not kept out of any game action, as Krzyzewski explained “those are two different situations”.
“Headlines might make it sound like it’s the same,” he said. “That’s not the case. I think the decisions we made are in collaboration with our authorities, my superiors.”
Flashback to West Point
Duke hosted Army West Point on November 12 in its home opener as part of the Duke Veterans Day Weekend Showcase. The Blue Devils won 82-56, but the match held special significance as Army is where Krzyzewski played and first served as head coach. Between his four years as an Army student and his five years as a coach, Krzyzewski spent nearly a decade of his young adult life at West Point. Army explored its history with the program in a special tribute video released ahead of the game.
Krzyzewski’s final season began on a big stage, with the Blue Devils defeating Kentucky at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 9 in the Champions Classic. The venue is one of Krzyzewski’s favourites, and he gave the legendary coach a farewell gift. Krzyzewski is now 34-11 all-time at Madison Square Garden, and that record will stand unless the Blue Devils end up playing in the NIT, which would be nothing short of a disaster.