Head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Mason Plumlee, Quinn Cook and Seth Curry all met with the press Tuesday to discuss Wednesday’s game against North Carolina.
After a tough loss to Miami, Duke basketball has bounced back with five consecutive conference wins. The Blue Devils will hope to extend that streak tomorrow night against North Carolina, a team coming off a 26-point loss to Miami. Both Krzyzewski and his players emphasized that, despite their underwhelming record, the Tar Heels are a talented and dangerous team.
In his opening remarks, Krzyzewski announced that all nine players who were active against Boston College will be ready for tomorrow’s game. He also clarified that either Amile Jefferson or Josh Hairston would get the start along with Cook, Sulaimon, Curry, and Plumlee.
Here are some highlights from the press conference:
On the road team’s success in recent years:
“Both teams are pretty good…have been really good… so they can win both places. Both programs are accustomed to playing in frenzied situations, in big times situations, so in some respects it becomes a little bit bigger challenge and most teams want that type of thing.”
On playing without Kelly:
“It’s a continuous adjustment process, because you went from depending on three seniors and bringing along Rasheed and Quinn to where they’ve elevated their game, and all of a sudden… you don’t hide a freshman’s weakness now. He has to get stronger, he has to be an upperclassmen, and then you’re playing freshman that didn’t play as much whether it be Amile or even in Josh’s case there are more minutes there.”
On the importance of rankings:
“We never talk about rankings…the best thing is to realize that the team we’re playing against will use [Duke's high rank] in the months of February and March…they get a chance to get a huge win, a resume win.”
On winning close games:
“It’s always the kids in that regard. I think it’s just huge for Mason to step up to the line…he’s had some struggles… now it’s 61-59 and you have two free throws. And for that kid to hit two swishes at the time were great.”
On history of rivalry:
“This is a priceless event tomorrow night. It’s what makes college at any sport. At some time, I won’t be here and certainly I was here all the time. Coach Bubas, Foster…and certainly there will be someone after me, but Duke-Carolina will be there for ever.”
On playing with foul trouble:
“I still have to be aggressive, but I have to be on the floor at the same time. If you pick up one or two [fouls] you have to be smarter, but there can’t be a major letdown where you’re letting your guy score every time.”
On playing through early in-game frustration:
“A lot of it is knowing that I am still going opportunities. In the past if I started out that way [cold], a guy might not throw me the ball the rest of the game. I know that’s not going to happen. Quinn, Rasheed, and those guys, they still have confidence in me and whether I’m 0-5 or 5-5 they’re going to keep feeding me.”
On looking back at past Duke-North Carolina games, and how they add perspective to tomorrow night:
“I want to make sure we win it. Winning is the priority. I’ll have plenty of time to look back after I’m gone.”
On avoiding distractions from the media before such a big game:
“We have to remain focused. We can’t just think that because of their record or their prior losses that they’re going to come in here and get blown out. They’re a great team. People have seen glimpses of them against UNLV and Miami the first time. They’ve played some good games and they have a lot of talent…we really have to come in here tomorrow and execute what coach wants us to do.”
On feeding Plumlee inside:
“Coach made a big emphasis: keep throwing it to Mason consistently. A lot of times earlier in the year, if Mason had it going, we’d keep going to him, but if he didn’t have it then we’d try to find other things. But one thing about Mason is when he get’s the ball on the block he doesn’t look to score first; he’s one of the best passes on our team. When we get him the ball, great things happen.”
On the excitement of his first Duke-North Carolina start:
“It’s a dream come true. It’s something that every young basketball player watches, and wants to have a chance to play in the rivalry…To finally be in it says a lot about the work that we all, on the UNC side and Duke side, have put in.”
On 3-point shooting variabillity:
It just happens. I don’t know what goes into it. I think it’s a little bit contagious. You saw we were at Miami, missed some shots early, and then it seemed like everybody was missing them. The way we shot at Florida State and games like that – it seemed like we couldn’t miss. If you shoot good three-point percentages, that’s around 40-percent. That’s 60-percent misses. But you get extra points so it’s worth the risk.
On staying rested during the “long day” before the game:
We’ve played a few late games like this, so it’s honestly nothing different. Just try to get a few naps in, try to watch TV shows or whatever, just try to relax and not get hyped about the game or energetic too much. I just try to stay off my feet, get relaxed and ready for the game.
On advising younger players:
“[I] just try and tell them about the energy. But you don’t want to tell them too much and get them nervous or get them out of their regular rhythm. You don’t have to get them hyped up or anything like that, because that just comes with the game.”
Duke tips off against North Carolina tomorrow night at 9 p.m. eastern time at Cameron Indoor Stadium.