The early part of the season for schools that see themselves as national title contenders isn’t just about the big wins, but showing that they can rebound from the tough losses. A great performance from Quinn Cook and not one of the freshman phenom, Jabari Parker, helped Duke get back on track with a 79-69 win in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
With all of these big-name freshman showing up, it’s easy to forget about the veterans of college basketball; players like Cook, into his third season under coach K, having a strong start to the season and putting on his best performance with 24 points against Michigan, helping Duke forget about their six point loss to Arizona or their previous loss to Kansas, getting their first win over a ranked team in the #22 Wolverines.
Not a great shooting performance from Duke, especially early on, but on defense they were too much for Michigan, who missed 17 of their first 21 shots. The Wolverines finished with 23.1% from beyond the arc, led by Caris LeVert with 24 points and big day from Mitch McGary, scoring 15 points and adding 14 rebounds. Michigan also turned the ball over 12 times compared to Duke’s very organized and disciplined play, turning it over only 7 times.
With Duke’s win over Michigan, Krzyzewski tied Division II Philadelphia University coach Herb Magee for the most coaching wins in NCAA men’s basketball history with 964. Magee is still active and could retake the lead, while Duke don’t play again until December 16. Jabari Parker is close to reaching a milestone of his own, although it will have to wait a bit. He has scored at least 20 points on 7 of his first 9 games for the Blue Devils. One more 20 point game (he had 15 vs Michigan) will put him in the top 7 along with Gene Banks, Mike Gminski, Johnny Dawkins, J.J. Redick, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer as the freshman with the most 20 point games playing for Duke. Banks holds the record with 11, way back in the 1977-1978 season.
Mike Krzyzewski – Each of the teams I’ve coached here has to develop its own identity, even though we’re given a place that’s very high before we ever accomplish anything because of our history. We’re not a great basketball team. We have great kids, and they’re trying hard. We have a really tough schedule and we have to just keep trying to get better.
With the win over Michigan, Duke have now improved to 13-2 in the Big Ten / ACC challenge, the best record for anyone in either conference. They’ve also gone 6-0 now when playing in Cameron. Defense seemed to be the one thing critics said was going to be a problem for Duke down the long road towards the NCAA tournament. While playing against the very elite in the nation, they’ve proven they’re still not ready on both ends of the floor. However, there’s still enough talent and room for improvement, which is happening slowly, for Duke to be considered a serious challenge to any team, especially three months from now.