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Coach K Discusses, Louisville, Georgia Tech And Duke’s Youth

As Duke preps for Georgia Tech

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Louisville
Jan 23, 2021; Louisville, KY, USA; Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski against the Louisville Cardinals during a NCAA basketball game at the KFC Yum! Center. 
Courier Journal-USA TODAY Sports

“We’re just trying to get better and win games and get as many games in as possible. . . . You just feel thankful you’re playing.”

That was Mike Krzyzewski talking to the media this morning about the state of his program and the game in this pandemic season.

Duke is coming back to Cameron after coming up empty on a three-game road trip, three losses that dropped Duke to .500 both overall and in the ACC.

Duke has a chance to put that losing streak in the rear-view mirror Tuesday night, hosting Georgia Tech. The Jackets haven’t been much of a threat to Duke in Cameron in recent years; they haven’t won at Duke since 2004 and that was a Tech team that advanced to the Final Four. Duke has won 13 straight against Georgia Tech.

But Duke isn’t taking anything for granted. This is Josh Pastner’s best team in Atlanta. In fact, they were a missed buzzer-beater away from taking down Virginia in Charlottesville Saturday night. Georgia Tech is 7-4, with some bad early losses. But they also have wins over Kentucky and North Carolina. Can they complete the thoroughbred-trifecta?

It’s an experienced team. Jose Alvarado, Moses Wright, Bubba Parham and Jordan Usher are seniors, Michael DeVoe a junior.

Duke can’t match that experience. And it’s talented experience. Point guard Alvarado is playing at an All-ACC level. He’s averaging over 17 points and four assists per game, with almost three steals per game. DeVoe is a mid-sized stat stuffer.

But Moses Wright might be the big story in Atlanta. The 6-9 Raleigh native—Enloe High School—started playing basketball late and was ignored by the Triangle schools. But he’s come from a project to one of the ACC’s best big men. He’s averaging 17 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Krzyzewski said that Duke would have to work hard to counter Tech’s experience and talent.

“They’re an old team. Josh has kept his kids together. They’ve lost and won. They’ve had shared experiences. . . . They’re familiar with each other. Alvarado, he and [Louisville’s Carlik] Jones are just at a different level. They’re men. They’re old. They’re such good competitors. At the end of a clock you can go to them and they’ll make something happen. And the guys around Alvarado, they can play off of him really well.”

Several things would help Duke turn around its losing streak. Duke isn’t getting to the foul line and its opponents are.

Over the last four games Duke has shot 53 foul shots, while allowing 101.

“It’s a big point of us trying to get better. . . . We have to learn how not to foul and how to get fouled, with a young group whose games don’t naturally lend themselves to getting fouled. We don’t have a low-post presence. In the low post you usually get fouled, so you produce fouls there that get you into the one-and-one. The other way you get fouled is by driving. We have not driven into resistance as strongly or as physically as we need to. . . . The kids came in this morning before class. They’ve been very committed to working on it.”

Another priority is getting Jalen Johnson and Matt Hurt playing well at the same time.

“Their games are complementary,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s too bad they haven’t had the frequency, not just in games but in practice, to develop a rhythm that key players develop with each other. . . . We’ll be better if both of them play well together. . . There’s just a familiarity lacking there.”

Krzyzewski reiterated that there’s no panic in his program.

“These guys are working hard and my coaching staff is working hard. We’re just playing catch-up. But we’re going to continue to work hard and try to get better.”

Tip-off Tuesday at 9 P.M.