By Bret Strelow
DURHAM ó Mike Krzyzewski will go for his 800th coaching victory when Duke travels to N.C. State on Saturday.
The 799th win wasn’t a milestone, but it was meaningful.
The seventh-ranked Blue Devils snapped a two-game losing streak in league play and moved back into a tie for first place with a 71-58 victory against Georgia Tech on Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke (24-3, 11-2 ACC) made a season-low two 3-pointers in 15 attempts but matched a season high by registering 14 steals. It held Georgia Tech, which had 20 turnovers and three assists, to 37.7-percent shooting.
“Both teams played so darn hard,” Krzyzewski said. “It was tough to make passes, let alone shots. It was one of our best defensive performances of the year.”
Gerald Henderson and DeMarcus Nelson totaled 15 points apiece to lead the Blue Devils, who had their lowest scoring output in 15 home games this season.
Henderson scored on an alley-oop dunk and a one-handed follow jam to cap a 12-0 run that pushed Duke ahead 30-19, but his defense made a bigger impression on Krzyzewski.
The Yellow Jackets (11-15, 4-8) pulled within 35-32 early in the second half, and Duke re-established a double-digit advantage in the next four minutes. Henderson converted a steal into a fastbreak dunk for a seven-point edge, and he made another steal on Georgia Tech’s next possession.
Henderson switched with Jon Scheyer and defended Tech sharpshooter Anthony Morrow during a sequence with fewer than 12 minutes remaining. Henderson picked up another steal, and an official timeout occurred after Kyle Singler drew a foul.
Krzyzewski left the bench area and wrapped his arms around Henderson. The hug continued as Duke’s players huddled around the two individuals.
“Both of us, we kind of saw improvement,” said Henderson, who returned to the starting lineup after a one-game stint as a reserve. “It’s one of those moments.
“Being around him, he gets real intense and is passionate about a lot of things. He just got real excited because I made a couple plays there that were key plays in the game. I was excited, but it was also a pretty cool thing.”
Krzyzewski said Henderson has always held his own as an on-the-ball defender, but his anticipation wasn’t as advanced.
The way Henderson denied passes and played away from the ball against Georgia Tech encouraged Krzyzewski.
“All of a sudden it’s the birth of a new talent,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s so exciting when you see a kid do that.”
Morrow, Georgia Tech’s leading scorer at 14.3 points per game, posted all nine of his points in the final 13 minutes. Tech didn’t attempt a free throw in the first 30 minutes, and it finished 7-for-11 from the line.
Duke, which committed a combined 45 turnovers in back-to-back losses to Wake Forest and Miami, had only one against the Yellow Jackets during an eight-minute stretch of the second half in which it increased its lead to 14 points.
The next test is N.C. State, which led at halftime of its visit to Cameron on Jan. 31. Krzyzewski will have a chance to join five other Division I coaches in the 800-win club.
“It just really shows that he’s a winner,” Henderson said. “To even coach 800 games is a heck of an accomplishment. It would be good to help him get that. He doesn’t coach to get records, but it’ll be big for his legacy.”
Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or email@example.com.
By Bret Strelow