Dressed in his classic blue suit, Mike Krzyzewski—winner of 999 games at Duke—walked onto the floor Saturday night, giving his usual round of fist bumps, waves and handshakes.
A few hours later, he left the court with Win No. 1,000 in his Blue Devil career.
Thanks to a combined 68 points from a quartet of Duke freshmen, the top-ranked Blue Devils rolled past Utah Valley 99-69 Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, making their head coach the first to tally 1,000 wins with a single program in college hoops history. Marvin Bagley III led the way with 24 points and was joined in double figures by Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., Trevon Duval and Grayson Allen.
“I love Duke,” Krzyzewski said in a postgame on-court ceremony. “I love Duke more than any of you, because I’m older than most of you and it accumulates. I’ve been very proud to be the Duke coach.... It’s been great to be on the ride of how our university has grown into really the best global school in the world, but the most important thing for me is being in this gym.
“It’s an amazing thing when you have great moments individually, but when you can share great moments, it’s the best, and I’ve had 1,000 moments to share with all of you. It’s been sensational.”
Just 24 hours after the visiting Wolverines took it to No. 5 Kentucky for more than 20 minutes Friday, Utah Valley came out with a similar energy as it looked to spoil Krzyzewski’s celebration. Head coach Mark Pope’s squad opened up as large a lead as four points, forcing Duke into a pair of turnovers and just 2-of-9 shooting to start the contest.
But in the blink of an eye, the Blue Devils erupted, showing the potential that has earned them early hype as arguably the nation’s best team.
“[Coach K told us to] just live in the moment right now. Don’t worry about what happened, don’t worry about what’s going to happen, just live right now,” Carter said. “After he said that, I think everybody locked in and started playing in the moment.”
With an 18-3 run from just before the under-12 timeout to the 7:57 mark of the first half—capped by five consecutive points from Carter—Duke (2-0) surged to a 31-20 advantage, doing so with five freshmen on the floor. From there, the hosts stretched the margin to 15 by intermission and stayed on the gas pedal throughout the second half.
“We’ve been jelling well together,” Bagley said of his freshman class. “We’ve been getting easy looks to each other, finding each other on the break. We’re just having fun. I think that’s the main thing. If you’re not having fun, then there’s no need to be out there playing. That’s my mindset going into the games, and I’m enjoying it a lot.”
Despite the wide margin of victory, the contest featured a couple of wrinkles, especially as the Wolverines (0-2) challenged early on.
Even with a veteran officiating crew that included ACC regulars Ted Valentine and Mike Eades, a couple of debatable calls in the opening minutes put the Blue Devils in foul trouble. Duval picked up a pair of fouls before the under-16 timeout, sending him to the bench, and Allen was whistled for his second at the 11:38 mark.
As a result, Krzyzewski went deeper into his bench, bringing Marques Bolden into the contest even though he had declared the sophomore center out for the game with strep throat following Duke’s season-opening victory Friday against Elon. Alex O’Connell and Jordan Goldwire also made first-half appearances, playing in an all-rookie group with Carter, Bagley and Trent to spark the crucial early surge.
When Duval returned to the contest, however, he made it a coming-out party. After posting eight assists without a turnover Friday, the New Castle, Del., native registered his first double-double Saturday, finishing with 15 points and 12 assists.
He was not the only Blue Devil with a double-double, though. Bagley posted his second in as many nights, adding 10 rebounds to go along with his 24-point performance.
Duke’s starters still could use some help from the bench in the coming weeks, as the Blue Devils only got 13 points from their reserves. And after playing two games in 24 hours, the schedule won’t get much lighter for Duke as it plays seven more games in the next 18 days.
The Blue Devils will now turn their attention to a Tuesday matchup in Chicago when they do battle with No. 2 Michigan State at the Champions Classic. Duke handled the Spartans last season, winning 78-69 in Durham, but Tom Izzo’s team returns preseason national player of the year Miles Bridges, who will pose a unique challenge for this young group of Blue Devils.
But if the opening weekend is a sign of things to come, then the primetime showdown in the Windy City could be a continuation of what has been a flying start for Duke.
“I’m just looking forward to winning,” Bagley said. “That’s the only thing that I’m focused on that’s on my mind. You don’t want to play to lose.”