DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—With Kyrie Irving pushing the ball in transition, top-ranked Duke left little doubt about whether it was the nation’s best team.
Now, with Irving sitting on the bench wearing a boot on his right foot, the Blue Devils are sorting out how much they’ll change their style of play while they await word on the star freshman’s status.
Andre Dawkins scored a career-high 28 points in his first start with Irving sidelined with a big toe injury, helping Duke beat Bradley 83-48 on Wednesday night to move coach Mike Krzyzewski into sole possession of third place on the all-time wins list. But afterward, most of the talk was focused on how long Irving would be out with an injury that seemed minor just a few days ago.
“I can’t say anything more because we’re learning information,” Krzyzewski said. “It is serious and whatever final decision is made, it’s going to be based on what’s in his best interests in his career, not to save him for any period of time or whatever. But he could be out for a long time.”
Krzyzewski offered few details other than to say Irving is being evaluated by doctors both at Duke and nationally. He said the team hopes to learn more about his status in the next week to 10 days.
Irving was hurt during last weekend’s win against Butler in a rematch of last season’s national championship game. Krzyzewski said the team didn’t learn the seriousness of the injury until it returned to campus and the toe swelled.
Irving was second on the team in scoring at 17.4 points per game, while his ability to push the ball in transition had sparked a faster pace for the defending national champions. He had a season-high 31 points in a practically flawless performance here against Michigan State last week, then had 21 points against Butler and even returned to the game after suffering the injury.
“Everybody’s game changes, including mine,” Krzyzewski said. “It doesn’t mean a wholesale change in what you’re doing, but it changes everything including the habits of having played with that great player for the entire preseason and eight games.”
Dawkins replaced some of the scoring lost with Irving’s injury, hitting eight 3-pointers as Duke (9-0) shook off a cold-shooting first half before blowing the game open with a flurry of 3s after halftime against the Braves (4-5).
Krzyzewski earned his 877th victory, moving him out of a tie with Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp and putting him just two behind North Carolina’s Dean Smith for second place behind Bobby Knight’s 902 wins. The Hall of Famer could tie his former longtime rival at home against Elon on Dec. 20, then pass Smith when the Blue Devils face UNC Greensboro on Dec. 29 in the Greensboro Coliseum.
Normally, the Blue Devils play Irving alongside leading scorer Nolan Smith in what Krzyzewski considers a two-point guard lineup that makes the Blue Devils tougher to defend.
With Irving out, Smith became the primary ballhandler with Seth Curry backing him up. Smith’s offense suffered with Irving out; he came in averaging 17.8 points but finished with two points on 0-for-8 shooting, though he did have a career-best 10 assists.
With Bradley playing a zone much of the night, the Blue Devils settled for outside shots and didn’t attack the interior the way Krzyzewski wanted. They corrected that in the second half and the 3s started falling to make everything look fine at first glance, though it was clear Duke will need time to adjust if Irving is out for an extended period.
“There was just no continuity,” Singler said. “We weren’t hitting our posts (inside). It was different without Kyrie out on the court. So just throughout the game, I think we got more comfortable with the lineup we had out on the court. That’s a good thing because we are a different team without Kyrie out on the court. The stuff that we’re doing is different, so we need to get more familiar with it.”
Walt Lemon Jr. scored 14 points for the Braves, who have lost five straight.