After beating St. John’s 77-68, Duke fans and players got around to make Mike Krzyzewski feel once again like a million dollars, becoming the first NCAA men’s basketball coach to win 1000 career games.
Duke struggled in the first half against the Big East team but pulled through later on thanks to excellent perimeter defense and not allowing any transition offense for St. John’s in the second half. Tyus Jones led the way with 22 points, Quinn Cook scored 17 and Jahlil Okafor finished with a double double of 17 points and 10 rebounds.
With no transition game and their 3-point shot failing them (4-of-15) and a woeful 1-of-12 from shots outside the paint in the second half, the Red Storm didn’t really stand a chance against this kind of talent. We’ve seen Duke struggle this season in their two losses, but that only happens when teams are able to shoot well from long range. Without that kind of threat, it’s very hard beating the Blue Devils when it comes to points near the rim.
This almost turned out to be another missed opportunity for Coach K to advance up unopposed in the wins column. Duke were behind by 10 with 8:15 left in the game, but it seemed that falling so low against a supposedly inferior team sparked something among the Duke players. Suddenly the defense stopped being lazy. Players dove for loose balls. Instead of waiting for the game to come to them, players like Jones and Okafor made an effort that simply wasn’t there earlier on. It included a stretch of not allowing a St. John’s field goal for over six minutes.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been a part of a game like that. That’s kind of nuts, huh? It just seemed like three different games. It just, boom! It was great. It was beautiful, really, to see them fight today and win. I’m glad it’s over. There will be others that win more, but it is kind of neat to be the first one to 1,000. I am proud of that, too: It’s not just the number of wins, but the quality of opponents we’ve had.
The celebrations weren’t as big as they would have been if the game would have been played in Durham, but those can wait. There were plenty of Duke fans in New York to cheer for the Blue Devils as they improved to 17-2, winning a third consecutive game, something of a break from their ACC schedule which doesn’t get any easier, as road games against Notre Dame and Virginia, both ranked in the top 10, await them next.
Krzyzewski has been a head coach since 1975, beginning at Army, coaching there for five seasons (73-59). In 1980 he became the Duke head coach, taking them to the Final Four in 1988 for the first time under his reign. In 1990 they were crushed by UNLV in the final, but that seemed to push this program even further. Two national championships (1991, 1992) back to back and two more later in life (2001, 2010). The Blue Devils haven’t missed the NCAA tournament for 19 consecutive years.