Mike Krzyzewski will coach his 1,000th game at Duke and celebrate his 63rd birthday Saturday.
His players won’t have to look too hard to find the best gift for both occasions.
With an estimated 100 former players and coaches invited to Cameron Indoor Stadium, the eighth-ranked Blue Devils will try to remain atop the ACC with a home victory over Maryland.
Krzyzewski, 780-219 in 30 seasons at Duke and 853-278 overall, will become the eighth Division I coach to lead one school for 1,000 games when the teams tip off.
After that, he’ll try to help the Blue Devils (20-4, 8-2) maintain their conference lead. A victory would move them two games ahead of the Terrapins (16-6, 6-2), but a Wake Forest win over Georgia Tech later that night would keep the Demon Deacons within one game.
A loss on its ceremonious day would push Maryland ahead of Duke, winners of three straight and 15 in a row at home, by percentage points.
“I don’t think it’s really pressure,” center Brian Zoubek said. “It’s added incentive, added motivation - not that we needed any more, but it’s there just the same. … You could pick any number of reasons why we’re motivated.”
In the past two games, the Blue Devils handled the pressure of fending off a pesky Boston College squad on the road and a trip to archrival North Carolina.
After earning a 66-63 victory last weekend, they prevailed 64-54 over the Tar Heels on Wednesday night despite shooting 31.9 percent—their second-worst effort of the season.
Duke, though, closed the game on a 25-11 burst, grabbed 23 offensive rebounds to amass a 51-42 edge and limited North Carolina to 34.5 percent shooting.
Jon Scheyer had 11 of his 24 points during that finishing run, and he has averaged 21.0 points over the past five games while shooting 50 percent from 3-point range. He’s also paced the ACC’s top-scoring team (80.7 points per game) with a 19.1-point average, second-best in the conference.
For the first time this season, Duke will face the league’s second-best offense (80.2 ppg), led by Greivis Vasquez.
The Terps’ guard, tied for third in the ACC with 18.1 points per game, earned the conference’s player of the week honors by averaging 24.5 points in his team’s consecutive wins, including Sunday’s 92-71 blowout of visiting North Carolina.
Vasquez matched a career high with six 3-pointers en route to 26 points. He also had 11 assists to surpass 700 in his career and needs six rebounds Saturday to reach 600.
Vasquez, 78 points shy of 2,000, has also helped Maryland hold seven straight opponents below 40 percent shooting during a 6-1 stretch.
“We’ve got smart players (who) know how to play defense and know how to stop people,” coach Gary Williams said.
Williams’ team, which has split its four ACC road games, could have one fewer player to stop Saturday. Duke starting forward Lance Thomas is doubtful after bruising a bone in his right knee versus North Carolina.
Maryland is hoping that absence could give them the edge to snap a five-game losing streak to the Blue Devils and avoid a third consecutive defeat at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Terps will have had six days off because Wednesday night’s home game against Virginia was postponed due to snow.
Maryland has beaten at least one Top 10 team in 13 straight seasons, but lost its only such matchup this season to then-No. 3 Villanova on Dec. 6.
Duke leads the series 106-60.