DUKE NOTEBOOK: Krzyzewski, Blue Devils added a wrinkle on defense against Virginia

Virginia Duke Basketball

Duke's RJ Barrett reacts following a basket against Virginia during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. Duke won 72-70. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)


Sports Writer

Sunday, January 20, 2019

DURHAM — After Duke’s 72-70 victory over Virginia at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night, Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett made a note of something the Blue Devils did differently when the Cavaliers were on offense. 

“They switched everyone defensively,” Bennett said. “They can switch Nos. 1-5 and they were doing that consistently on off-ball, on-ball.”

It was an unusual strategy for Mike Krzyzewski. As the coach explained after game, the idea to switch rather than have his defenders fight through ball screens was a counter to Virginia’s two knockdown shooters, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome. 

“We haven’t done that,” Krzyzewski said of switching. “That’s something in the last few days we did. We felt that the baseline floppy curls...they’re so good (in those setups).”

The one overt error the Blue Devils made on a switch came late in the game, with Duke up three points. Guy slithered free on the right wing and knocked down a 3-pointer to keep the game close. 

Guy, who projects as an NBA prospect, finished the night with 14 points, but was held to just 2-of-7 from deep. 

Krzyzewski had high praise for the Cavalier, with Guy’s game evoking memories of a certain Duke guard from another era. 

“Guy is the closest that I’ve seen to J.J. (Redick) — I’m not saying he’s J.J. He’s close,” Krzyzewski said. “A lot of people can shoot turning, he can hit turning.” 

A tough critic

Here’s the full exchange between R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson during their press availability, when Williamson wanted a rating on his first-half dunk that sent the Cameron Crazies into euphoria. 

Williamson: R.J, R.J. What would you rank that dunk?

Barrett: Bro, that was like a five. You didn’t even do anything!

Williamson: What did you rate it? 

Barrett: A five bro. He barely touched you.

Reporter: A five out of 10? 

Barrett: Yeah, five out of 10.

Krzyzewski was more outwardly praiseful of the dunk. 

“That move he made full court when he dunked with his right hand — holy mackerel,” Krzyzewski said. 

Williamson and Barrett are roommates and have an obvious bond, evidenced by an emotional embrace at the end of the game. 

“Zion’s my brother. We’re such great competitors,” Barrett said. “When you get a win like that it’s big. We had to hug it out.” 

Game No. 1 without Tre Jones

Krzyzewski said in his postgame interview that there was no timetable for Tre Jones return from his injury against Syracuse, and that the team decided on Friday he would not play against Virginia. 

Krzyzewski does not want to put any pressure on Jones, and will evaluate the point guard’s readiness intermittently. The one comment from the game Krzyzewski made about not having Jones was on inbounds passes at the end of the game, which were a little more challenging without the stabilizing force of Jones. 

“Obviously we would love to have Tre,” junior Javin DeLaurier said. “But we never had any doubt with the guys we had that we’d be able to win the game.”

Without Jones, Krzyzewski started a big lineup height-wise, with Barrett doing the brunt of the ball-handling. 

“Just had to be the one bringing the ball up, other than that it was the same stuff,” Barrett said. 

Williamson admired by Krzyzewski

Williamson entered this season with a deafening amount of hype. He has met the amount, and perhaps exceeded it, halfway through his freshman season. 

With a 27-point performance against Virginia, and with another marquee dunk and a few other high-flying defensive plays, Williamson is now averaging 21.5 points per game on 66 percent shooting, plus 9.4 rebounds and nearly two blocks a game. 

Off the court, he’s acted with grace, said Krzyzewski. 

“We all should admire him. He’s such a people person. When football was still playing and he was at a football game, he’d take time with people. He really doesn’t want a lot of attention, obviously he attracts a lot of attention. For GameDay, he didn’t want to do too much. He doesn’t want to separate himself from what the other guys are doing,” Krzyzewski said. “The family doesn’t either. They’re just good people. You guys know from being with him. He’s such an upbeat kid. He was terrific tonight.”