Duke appears to be back on track and set to help its coach make history.
Mike Krzyzewski seeks his 800th coaching victory when the seventh-ranked Blue Devils visit struggling North Carolina State in an ACC matchup on Saturday afternoon.
Duke (24-3, 11-2) won 71-58 over Georgia Tech on Wednesday to move back into a tie with No. 3 North Carolina atop the conference standings.
The victory, Duke’s second straight since losing consecutive games at Wake Forest and Miami, improved Krzyzewski to 799-264 in his 33rd season as a head coach.
Krzyzewski will try to become the sixth coach in college basketball history to win 800 games.
“It just really shows that he’s a winner,” Duke guard Gerald Henderson said. “To even coach 800 games is a heck of an accomplishment. It would be good to help him get that.”
All but 73 of Krzyzewski’s victories have been with the Blue Devils. His first five seasons as a coach came at Army, where he also played under mentor Bob Knight, one of the other five coaches to have won 800 games.
Krzyzewski would become the second coach to reach the milestone this season. San Francisco’s Eddie Sutton did it on Feb. 2.
“We’re going to want it just as bad regardless of what win it was for him,” Duke sophomore Jon Scheyer said. “Obviously that gives us a little something extra, but we know going into N.C. State on Saturday it’s a huge game no matter what.”
The Blue Devils are trying to avoid losing a third straight ACC road game for the first time since Feb. 2-17, 2005, as they face a North Carolina State team that has lost six in a row.
Duke, which won 92-72 at home over the Wolfpack on Jan. 31, has won five of six versus N.C. State (15-13, 4-10) and its last two trips to Raleigh.
On Wednesday, Duke overcame its worst 3-point shooting night (2-for-15) of the season by playing strong defense to beat Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils limited the Yellow Jackets to 37.7 percent shooting and forced 20 turnovers.
Duke held its second straight opponent to fewer than 60 points after yielding an average of 91.0 points in its previous two losses.
“We turned up our will on defense, because the last couple of ACC games, we haven’t done that,” said Henderson, who had 15 points Wednesday. “It was big for us to come out and make a statement on defense.”
Though the Blue Devils shot 42.9 percent, they turned the ball over just nine times, giving them 23 in their last two contests after committing 45 in the two league losses.
On Saturday, Duke will look for another strong effort offensively against N.C. State.
In the January contest against the Wolfpack, Greg Paulus had 22 points while Henderson and DeMarcus Nelson each added 18 as the Blue Devils shot 57.1 percent - their best in conference play in 2007-08.
The Wolfpack shot 54.5 percent, but committed 18 turnovers and were outscored 55-26 in the second half.
N.C. State, ranked 21st to open the season, has been one of the nation’s biggest disappointments.
“It’s a freak thing,” reserve point guard Marques Johnson said. “We have tons of talent. I don’t know what it is.”
Reserve Trevor Ferguson had a career-high 17 points in the Wolfpack’s 72-62 home loss to Florida State on Wednesday. N.C. State failed to score 70 points for the fourth time in five games and is averaging 65.2 in its last six contests.
N.C. State is expected to have coach Sidney Lowe on the bench Saturday while his mother continues to recover from a heart attack she suffered Wednesday.