The Duke bench, replaced with starters who’d done more than enough against Georgia Tech, couldn’t contain their chuckles.
Their 110-57 victory over the visiting Yellow Jackets on Wednesday was too fun to bear, as No. 8 Duke rebounded from losing its ACC opener.
Freshman Harry Giles, in his best game of the year, hit a layup that broke 100 points, Duke’s first time doing that since December 2015. Giles notched his first college double-double with 10 points and 12 boards in 17 minutes.
Duke (13-2, 1-1 ACC) looked stylishly complete, marked by a second half full of alley-oops, dunks, tip-ins and unexpected 3-pointers. Most notable, Grayson Allen returned from a one-game suspension and sparked an offense that fell flat just a few days ago at Virginia Tech.
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So the players had every reason for the slew of smiles.
But when a Jayson Tatum slam gave Duke a 37-point lead midway through the second, coach Mike Krzyzewski’s reaction was the opposite of the jubilant Blue Devils.
When Jack White came off the bench late and buried a corner 3 that provided a scorching 104-55 score, the players jumped up and down, the fans at Cameron Indoor Stadium followed suit, but Krzyzewski remained sunken in his chair, a posture he maintained for much of the game.
When he did stand, he often held his hand on the left side of his lower back. When he sat, sandwiched between assistants Jeff Capel and Jon Scheyer for his last game before lower-back surgery, he often extended his left leg, sometimes rubbing it.
Whatever pain Krzyzewski has been facing and trying to remedy for the last month will soon be fixed, as he’s set to have a fragment of a herniated disk removed Friday. Capel will take over during the leave of absence.
Though his walk lacked pep, Krzyzewski insisted he’s fine.
“I’m all right,” he said sharply. “Obviously I need surgery. I feel like a guy who is all right and ready to go to surgery. I’ll be happy when it’s done. The biggest thing for me over the last month is how tired you get because of pain. Even tonight, just in pain all the time. You want to just punch it, but then you’re punching yourself.
“I’m ready to have this taken care of.”
Krzyzewski, who turn 70 on Feb. 13, anticipates a smooth recovery and plans to be back – but he will take his time.
I’ll be back. This isn’t about me not being back, unless there’s, God-forbid, some complications. We don’t anticipate it. I’m in good shape; I know I don’t look it, or whatever.
He said he postponed the surgery to work Allen back in at point guard. The star junior was suspended for tripping Elon’s Steven Santa Ana on Dec. 21, an action that also cost him his captaincy.
Allen scored 15 points, one of seven to finish in double figures for Duke, but his seven assists were bigger. Duke finished with 24 total assists, and Allen didn’t force his shot early. He dished four assists before his first attempt from the floor. His first points came from foul line, where he went 7-of-7 in Duke’s 84-percent effort from the line.
“I had no idea (how long the suspension would be),” Allen said “I was home over break, and I knew coming back I was going to have to work my way back and earn it and be under control and accept whatever discipline came by way from our coaching staff. When I was back on the court, just put everything in the past.”
Before sitting out of Duke’s 89-75 loss to Virginia Tech, Allen had missed the Maine game on Dec. 3 for rest. Krzyzewski said he and Duke athletic director Kevin White talked and felt what was done behind the scenes was appropriate before reinstating Allen.
Allen and freshman Frank Jackson ran the point Wednesday, setting Krzyzewski up for a comfortable exit from his team. The Hall of Fame coach could be out for up to four weeks.
“I do feel confident about the direction we’re going in,” Krzyzewski said. “Obviously, I feel real comfortable in my staff.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan