For most of Duke’s last game, it looked like coach Mike Krzyzewski would have to wait four more days to get his next milestone win. Then the legendary coach turned over the huddle to his players.
After Krzyzewski’s unorthodox approach led to a late comeback and his 800th career victory, the sixth-ranked Blue Devils look for a more complete performance as they visit Virginia on Wednesday.
Duke (25-3, 12-2) trailed for most of last Saturday’s game at North Carolina State, but Krzyzewski let his players work through their struggles, and they emerged with an 87-86 victory.
“For a couple of late timeouts, I let anyone who would actually want to talk - and say something that somebody would listen to - run the huddle,” Krzyzewski said. “Teams become really good when they talk to each other. What happens is, they take ownership. We never took ownership of this game until late in the second half.”
The Blue Devils were behind by as many as 13 points in the second half, during which they did not lead until their game-ending 14-5 run.
“Everything was going for (N.C. State), but the thing about it is, we pulled together as a team,” said senior guard DeMarcus Nelson, who tied for the team lead with 19 points. “It just clicked for us - in the last 8 minutes, we started making the plays that we needed to win.”
That win was Krzyzewski’s 727th since taking over at Duke before the 1980-81 season and the 800th of his career. He’s in sixth place all-time and second behind San Francisco’s Eddie Sutton (803) among active coaches.
Krzyzewski acknowledged the achievement, but remains focused on the future of this season’s team, which is hoping to give its coach at least a share of his 12th regular-season ACC title and eighth in 12 years.
“A lot of you were here when I started, and at the time I thought eight victories would have been nice,” Krzyzewski said when addressing the media after Saturday’s game. “It is hard to put it in perspective because … you’re coaching this team, and it’s more important what this team is doing than what you’ve done with other teams.”
Krzyzewski’s current team is one of two fighting for the ACC championship. The other is archrival and top-ranked North Carolina, which leads Duke by one-half game after beating Florida State 90-77 on Tuesday.
The Tar Heels visit Durham in both teams’ regular-season finale Saturday.
Before that game, the Blue Devils will try to take care of the Cavaliers (14-13, 4-10), who have won three of four since a seven-game losing streak.
Calvin Baker made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds remaining to help Virginia overcome 37.9 percent shooting in Monday’s 76-74 win at Georgia Tech. Baker scored five of his 10 points in the final 29.1 seconds, and added seven rebounds, four assists and four steals in 26 minutes off the bench as the Cavaliers pulled out of last place in the conference.
Duke has won 10 of the last 11 meetings with Virginia, but lost its last game in Charlottesville 68-66 in overtime last Feb. 1. Sean Singletary’s basket with a second left in the extra period handed the Blue Devils their third loss in their last five games at John Paul Jones Arena.
Singletary is third in the ACC in scoring at 19.7 points per game and he led the Cavaliers with 18 in this season’s first matchup against Duke, but Nelson’s 20 points lifted the Blue Devils to an 87-65 home win on Jan. 13.